Five months — that’s how long Fort Worth ISD has remaining with its current superintendent and to find its next leader.

The school board agreed March 29 to have Superintendent Kent Scribner leave his position on Aug. 31. The district will pay Scribner $573,077 to buy out his contract, according to the exit agreement the Fort Worth Report obtained through an open records request.

They also interviewed four search firms to find the next superintendent for the sixth-largest school district in Texas. The vote on Scribner’s resignation was 7-0, with trustee Jacinto Ramos absent.

While Scribner will resign in August, the board agreed to keep him as a district employee until Feb. 28, 2023. That date will mark Scribner’s retirement from Fort Worth ISD. Starting Sept. 1 through Feb. 28, Scribner will have a ceremonial role in the district, serving as its ambassador for public relations. However, he will be put on school-related leave during that period, according to the agreement.

Fort Worth ISD will pay Scribner in two large checks, one in August and the other in February. The first check will be $254,913.50 for his salary, plus $63,250 for his paid time off. The final will be the remaining $254,913.50.

Scribner’s contract includes a buyout clause in which Fort Worth ISD has 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.

Scribner’s contract was expected to end on Aug. 31, 2024.

Scribner, 56, is the second consecutive Fort Worth ISD superintendent the school board has had to buy out of his contract. Scribner’s predecessor, Walter Dansby, got $892,899 to leave the superintendency in 2014.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based Ray & Associates led the district’s last superintendent search. Fort Worth ISD paid $21,456 for the firm to find Scribner out of a field of 67 candidates. The process took more than a year.

Scribner’s departure comes in the middle of a leadership change in the district. Two new trustees are expected to join the school board after the May 7 election. Those two voices likely will impact the search.

The school board is in charge of hiring, evaluating and firing its superintendent, the only district employee who reports directly to trustees.

Fort Worth ISD’s superintendent search likely will be challenging and competitive. At least 73 school districts in Texas are looking for new superintendents. Jo Beth Jimerson, a professor in Texas Christian University’s College of Education who studies school leadership, previously told the Fort Worth Report the sheer number of vacancies will complicate Fort Worth ISD’s search because it likely limits the pool of good leaders.

During Scribner’s seven years leading Fort Worth ISD, the district has lower-than-ever student outcomes, a fractured community and a divisive political atmosphere for education. The district’s enrollment has lost 12,043 students since the 2016-17 school year.

Scribner oversaw the passage of two bonds worth almost $2 billion. However, the most recent saw a mixed bag of results: three smaller pieces failed while the largest part, which called for $1.2 billion in campus renovations, passed by 57 votes. 

A growing number of residents, which also includes former Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, have become unhappy with the state of Fort Worth ISD. 

Supporters of Scribner argued for months that he needed to stay in his position because of his equity and inclusion efforts and his dynamic leadership and that the COVID-19 pandemic tarnished the district’s academic standing. Opponents, though, saw Scribner as overseeing the Fort Worth ISD’s academic decline, hurting the city’s economic development push and future.

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