After seven years, the Kent Scribner-led era of Fort Worth ISD is officially coming to an end.

Trustees are expected to negotiate an exit agreement with the superintendent at their March 29 meeting, according to an agenda. The school board is also expected to determine how its superintendent search process will look.

During the search for Scribner, the district used the firm Ray & Associates. The process took over a year to find a permanent replacement after then-Superintendent Walter Dansby left in 2014. The school board paid $892,899 for Dansby to leave the superintendency.

Scribner announced his resignation in January. He told trustees and community members he planned to stay until 2024, the end of his contract. However, district officials said Scribner would stay until a new superintendent was hired.

Scribner’s contract was last revised in 2020 when trustees extended it to Aug. 31, 2024. His contract includes a buyout clause. Fort Worth ISD will likely have to pay 75% of the remaining balance in Scribner’s contract, according to the document. That would include his $330,000 annual salary and benefits, such as insurance and retirement. 

His departure comes during a time of several changes in Fort Worth ISD leadership. While the board searches for a new superintendent, voters will be tasked with filling two seats on the board after District 4 trustee Daphne Brookins died in November and District 1 trustee Jacinto Ramos resigned earlier this month. Ramos was the school board president when Scribner was hired. Election Day is May 7.

One of the school board’s top priorities is hiring a superintendent. The person whom trustees appoint is their sole employee. The board also conducts annual evaluations and reserves the right to fire the superintendent.

Scribner was hired in 2015 and pledged he would transform Fort Worth ISD into a model for urban school districts. In the seven years since, Fort Worth ISD has lower-than-ever student outcomes, a fractured community and a divisive political environment for education.

Enrollment has dropped during Scribner’s tenure. Since the 2016-17 school year, the number of students attending Fort Worth ISD schools has declined almost 14%. That is a loss of 12,043 students.

Scribner has overseen the passage of two bonds worth almost $2 billion combined. The most recent was in 2021 when the district asked voters to approve a four-part $1.5 billion bond project. The largest proposition, which called for $1.2 billion in campus renovations, passed by 57 votes and was the only component voters approved.

The closeness of the recent bond election was a symptom of the unhappiness voters have with Fort Worth ISD, a political science professor previously told the Fort Worth Report. Opponents of the bond characterized the election results as an indictment of Scribner’s tenure.

During the recent primary election, Scribner was a topic Republican county judge candidates discussed. Betsy Price, the former Fort Worth mayor who was once an ally of the superintendent, was asked about Scribner at a GOP event. She told attendees she no longer supported him.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Kent isn’t here in a few months,” Price said. 

On average, superintendents in the nation’s largest schools stay in their positions for about six years.

In July, Tobi Jackson became school board president. She said tighter accountability was necessary for Scribner because of the district’s poor academic performance.

Fort Worth ISD slipped back even further on the 2021 state standardized test. 

Students are not expected to make much progress this spring, according to district projections. Only 26% of third-grade students are expected to meet grade level benchmarks on this spring’s State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness reading exam, according to the district. If that number holds, it would be stagnant from last year’s results.

Scribner participated in a Texas Tribune conversation about education on March 25. He recognized the school board could either let him complete his final two years on his contract or find his replacement, cutting his time short.

“What I would like to do in my next life is work, in terms of community organizing, to lift voices that have been historically silent,” Scribner said. “From my perspective, there is another chapter I would like to explore.” 

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at jacob.sanchez@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter

Kristen Barton is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at kristen.barton@fortworthreport.org.

At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Jacob Sanchez

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. His work has appeared in the Temple Daily Telegram, The Texas Tribune and the Texas Observer. He is a graduate of St. Edward’s University.

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Kristen Barton

Kristen Barton is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. She has previous experience in education reporting for her hometown paper, the Longview News-Journal and her college paper, The Daily...

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