Students return to school Aug. 15, but the next Fort Worth ISD superintendent’s first day will not be until after the start of September. 

The nine trustees are weighing the pros and cons of the six candidates they interviewed in person Aug. 4-6 at Cantey Hanger Plaza. This group may contain their next leader — or not. The school board is looking to replace departing Superintendent Kent Scribner, who is exiting the job after seven years. 

Lawyer Brian Newby is consulting trustees on their search. The school board is in a sort of holding period as each trustee considers who should lead the district of about 73,000 students and build a consensus behind one candidate.

“They may narrow that down, or they may ask for six more,” Newby told the Fort Worth Report. “There’s just no telling until they finish their evaluation. There’s no deadline for how long they’re going to take.”

Newby did not disclose the total number of applicants for the job nor provide a breakdown of the candidates’ genders or whether they are from Texas or out of the state. He cited a law that does not require school districts to disclose superintendent candidate information.

School board President Tobi Jackson pointed questions about the search to Newby, who, she said, the board agreed would handle public comments on the process.

Illinois-based Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates is conducting the superintendent search. In its bid to get the search, the firm told trustees it could have a new superintendent in place by Aug. 15, the first day of school. 

Trustees hoped to have a new district leader sometime in September, Newby said.

“That may or may not be the case,” he said. “It just depends on the board’s evaluation of the candidates they have, and whether or not they need to interview additional candidates. or are ready to narrow down from the six.” 

The lynch pin on when the next superintendent begins is the day when trustees decide to announce and take formal action on their lone finalist.

Newby expects trustees to name a single lone finalist for superintendent. The school board does not plan to disclose any other candidates beyond its pick for superintendent. Texas law allows school districts to withhold superintendent candidate names.

When the board announces its finalist, that person will not immediately take the reins of the district. State law requires superintendent finalists to wait 21 days before they are officially hired.

Trustees have two scheduled meetings remaining for August. The next regular school board meeting is Aug. 23. If trustees rally behind a superintendent pick, that person would not start until after Sept. 13. Trustees also have a special meeting scheduled for Aug. 30 — which the district notes is only if needed. If a lone finalist is announced then, the next superintendent would take charge after Sept. 20.

Trustees are looking for a person focused on improving student outcomes. When they started their search, trustees considered indicators showing Fort Worth ISD was in worse shape than ever before — a sign of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, results from the state standardized test show the district bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels of academic achievement.

Trustees were glad to see improvements. However, several said the gains were not enough.

“We are moving in the right place, but we are not where we need to be,” trustee Anne Darr said in July.

Parents want the next superintendent to be someone who is present, listens and has experience in a large urban school district.

Scribner’s scheduled last day is Aug. 31. If the search extends past that day, trustees will likely have to decide who they want to lead the district between Scribner’s exit and his successor’s first day. 

The district plans to pay Scribner $573,077 to buy out his contract. Scribner announced his resignation in January. 

Contract details

The superintendent search will cost Fort Worth ISD at least $49,500, according to an agreement between HYA Associates and the school board. That cost is only the consulting fee. 

The final amount could be higher depending on additional fees for on-site consulting days, materials, travel expenses and other extra services the board seeks.

So far, Fort Worth ISD has paid $46,895 to HYA Associates, according to the June and July public list of checks from the district. The district has issued four checks to the search firm:

  • $24,750 on June 2
  • $3,583 on June 30
  • $17,295 on July 14
  • $1,267 on July 21

The consulting fee is expected to be paid in three installments to HYA Associates: 50% when the contract was signed and completed, 25% after presenting a leadership profile, and 25% after a slate of candidates are presented to trustees.

The contract also details that HYA Associates will conduct another search if the eventual superintendent quits during their first year. Additionally, another search could occur within two years if a majority of the board is still in place and trustees are dissatisfied.

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.