With a new superintendent comes new hope and new opportunity.
That’s how Steven Poole, executive director of the United Educators Association, started the school board meeting that featured the naming of the lone finalist for the Fort Worth ISD superintendent on Aug. 30.
“For teachers to be successful, we need successful schools, and for all of that we need a successful superintendent,” Poole said. “A superintendent can’t do it on their own. It is time for our community to rally around our students, schools and teachers and the new superintendent because if a superintendent is successful, so will our students and schools.”
After an extended search, trustees at Fort Worth ISD unanimously named Angélica Ramsey the lone finalist for the superintendent position in the district. Ramsey is the superintendent of Midland ISD in Midland. Board president Tobi Jackson said trustees considered 38 candidates, interviewed six and had three alternate options.
There is a state-mandated 21-day wait period until she can officially begin her duties. Currently, Deputy Superintendent Karen Molinar is serving as the deputy superintendent.
“Dr. Ramsey is up for the challenge and she is ready for this job,” Jackson said. “The scale of this is not going to be anything for her. Her communication skills and style, her attention to detail with curriculum and the budget she has. … She’s the right person.”
Tuesday night’s board meeting attracted more than 20 speakers both for and against the appointment.
Multiple speakers said they attended previous meetings to give input on who the new pick should be. One of those, Jennifer Treger, said parent attendance at those meetings was low and parent input is a big part of the equation.
She said parents want someone who will focus on education, not critical race theory or diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. She is concerned Ramsey is “very focussed on CRT based on her thesis.”
But Ernesto Morán, a parent, teacher and coach in the district, said the board should serve all parents, not just the loudest and angriest ones who ran former superintendent Kent Scribner off before his work in the district was done.
He said diversity should be respected, celebrated and honored in schools and the notion that equity work hurts the district is not factual.
Ramsey is coming into a district with a B rating from the state and from a district she just brought up from a C to a B. While the district is proud of this achievement, the community is calling for more improvements in Fort Worth schools.
According to the Midland Reporter-Telegram, the district received its best report card in a decade. The Reporter-Telegram said she looked at growth before COVID-19 to see whether the students outperformed those scores, which she said they did.
Who is she?
According to her LinkedIn profile, Ramsey has worked in education for at least 15 years. A U.S. Army veteran, Ramsey worked in Socorro ISD in El Paso as an assistant principal and then principal from July 2007 until July 2012.
She then went to California and worked in the Santa Clara County Office of Education and served as superintendent of the Pleasant Valley school district. Ramsey went to Midland in February 2021.
Her bachelor degree is in film studies from University of the Pacific and her master’s is in educational administration and supervision from the University of Texas at El Paso. She earned a doctorate of education in education leadership from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. Her dissertation was a study of Latina school leaders.
That dissertation, titled “Nuestra Voz: A Critical Ethnographic Study of Latina School Leaders” caused some Fort Worth residents to voice concerns about critical race theory and whether she would bring it to schools. Ramsey responded Tuesday that critical race theory is not in K-12 classrooms, it was never in K-12 classrooms and in Texas it is now illegal in K-12 classrooms.
She said her dissertation studied what is called the browning of America, or more Latino students coming into schools. In her research, she spent time with 10 Latina principals in two states to get to know their obstacles and victories in attaining those positions.
Her research found that Latina women, like herself, wait too long to apply for jobs, often waiting until they fit at least 85-90% of the job description.
“We have some characteristics that are really, really well suited for being school leaders,” Ramsey said. “And that’s that we listen more than speak, that we treat children as though they’re our own, and that we, culturally — because I was particularly studying Latina leaders — that we believe in family and so we take our school community and children and we treat them as their own family.”
During the meeting, Estella Williams, president of the Fort Worth and Tarrant County NAACP, said she thinks the board listened to the community in the process and thanked them for “considering an individual who recognizes the importance and embraces inclusion, diversity and racial equity.”
“You considered the needs of all children and not just some children,” she said.
Hollie Plemons, a parent in the district, said the board wasted tens of thousands of dollars because Ramsey is not what parents wanted in a superintendent.
“We’re the ones that have to fund this school so you have to do what we want,” she said.
In Midland, Ramsey was involved in the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Commerce, the Midland Education Foundation, Boys & Girls Club of Midland and the Boys Scouts of America, the Midland Rotary Club and Uptown Business & Professional Women’s Group.
How do the districts compare?
There are both stark differences and clear similarities between Fort Worth ISD and Midland ISD. According to the Texas Education Agency, the 2020-21 enrollment in Fort Worth ISD was 76,754. Midland ISD is roughly a third of that with 25,551.
“At the end of the day, it’s meeting the needs of each individual student, finding where they’re at, and then providing support to them, taking our teachers and removing barriers for them so that they can be the best teachers in their classroom,” Ramsey said. “And so it’s about structures really, on how as a district, we can unify and be one solid, coherent system, keeping the student need at the forefront.”
In Texas, a larger district means a larger budget since much of state funding is based on average daily attendance. Ramsey will go from a district with a $480,314,060 budget to Fort Worth ISD’s $974,887,308.
However, Ramsey’s knowledge in recapture laws could help Fort Worth ISD. The district is expected to send $2 million to the state under the “Robin Hood Law,” which takes money from property rich districts and reallocates it to rural, poorer schools for the first time. Midland ISD expects to pay $153,589,939 in recapture funds and has made payments before.
A demographic breakdown of students by race and ethnicity shows similarities. Both districts have a majority Hispanic population with 64.3% of students enrolled identifying as Hispanic.
While the Hispanic population is the same, the next largest demographic in Fort Worth ISD is African American, with 21% of students identifying as such compared with 7.4% in Midland ISD.
Midland also has more than twice as many white students enrolled in the district than Fort Worth ISD. The west Texas district has a 23% white student population, compared with 11% in Fort Worth ISD.
In other enrollment types tracked by the state, the districts have some of the same numbers. In Fort Worth ISD, 10% of students are enrolled in special education compared with 8% in Midland ISD.
The economically disadvantaged population greatly differs. About 85% of students in Fort Worth ISD are considered economically disadvantaged compared with only about 50% in Midland ISD.
There are more than twice as many emergent bilingual/English learner students in Fort Worth ISD compared with Midland, too.
But these differences are part of what drew Ramsey to Fort Worth ISD. She said she wants to serve this community.
Data factors into the decision, Jackson said, but it’s just one factor. Trustees chose Ramsey because they like her ability to look at more than a state accountability system but also to prepare the district for a harder STAAR exam coming soon.
“Every need that we have right now, the points where they’re not weak, but they’re not as good as they could be, are her area of expertise,” Jackson said. “She’s a perfect match for us. And I just feel very blessed.”
As far as the political challenges go — much like what was present at the board meeting with the critical race theory discussion — Ramsey said she plans to build bridges and have conversations with people to work toward the benefit of children in Fort Worth.
Jackson affirmed her belief that Ramsey is good at bringing people together to find common ground.
“Instead of pushing people away that don’t agree with you, she calls them to her and finds that common ground,” she said.
‘Someone for our girls to look up to’
Not all of the conversation on Tuesday evening was about critical race theory. Sandra Maria Garcia, state chair of the Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas, sat with Fernando Peralta, who is part of the Rosemont Neighborhood Association, and said she was excited to have a Latina lead the school district.
The Hispanic Women’s Network’s Latinas in Progress program aims to help young Latinas with scholarships and college acceptance, which means it has a vested interest in the superintendent, she said.
“They will be able to see themselves in that person and that they can reach those PhD levels,” Garcia said. “I don’t want them to be limited. I want them to know that they don’t have any limits.”
Peralta said the Rosemont Neighborhood Association is largely Hispanic and said the appointment of a Latina is important to his community.
“I think there’s a lot of, obviously here tonight, there’s a lot of different opinions,” Peralta said. “And I think with strong leadership that understands not just one side of the story, but both sides of the story, and those of us that are in the community that might not speak English. I mean, you’re able to hear all voices, and that’s why I’m excited about this opportunity.”
Editor’s note: Ernesto Morán is part of the Fort Worth Report’s reader advisory council.
Editor’s note: Reporter Kristen Barton is part of the Fort Worth chapter of the Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas
Kristen Barton is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com. 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.