Teacher Scott Blanco-Davis is glad to see an outsider taking on the mantle of Fort Worth ISD superintendent.
However, he offered some advice to Angélica Ramsey, the district’s new leader: Keep what is working, take pride in it and duplicate it.
“Let’s build on what Fort Worth (ISD) has,” Blanco-Davis said during a special school board meeting on Sept. 20.
Trustees unanimously signed off on a three-year contract with Ramsey that sets her annual salary at $335,000 and formalizes her hiring as the district’s superintendent.
Ramsey plans to hit the ground running. Her first day is Sept. 21, and she said she plans to spend it visiting schools. She wants to talk to teachers and students and see how they are to get a sense of the state of the district. She also emphasized she wants the school system to stop doing things to people, and instead do it with them.
In the coming weeks and months, Ramsey also plans to have deeper conversations with educators and the broader Fort Worth ISD community about how schools can improve. Still, she senses that the district is on its way to earning an A from the Texas Education Agency.
“All of the ingredients are already here. We have a community that is invested in the betterment of students,” Ramsey said. “Let’s get to work.”
Ramsey was named lone finalist Aug. 30. Before coming to Fort Worth, she was the superintendent of Midland ISD in West Texas and previously worked in school districts in California and in Socorro ISD near El Paso. The Midland ISD school board on Sept. 19 accepted Ramsey’s resignation.
She came out on top of a field of 38 applicants to succeed now-former superintendent Kent Scribner, who led the district for seven years. Scribner left his position on Aug. 31. Karen Molinar, the deputy superintendent, has been the interim leader.
Trustee Wallace Bridges is excited to see how Ramsey leads the district. He is looking forward to seeing the passion she had during the interview process in action as the new superintendent and school board work to continue to improve student outcomes.
Trustee Anne Darr also brought up Ramsey’s interview. Darr remembered Ramsey telling the school board their district had all the right pieces — now it just needed them in the right place.
Ramsey’s salary is $5,000 more than Scribner’s $330,000. That makes her the fourth highest-paid superintendent in Tarrant County. Additionally, her base salary is the 32nd largest in the state, according to TEA.
Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates led the search for a new superintendent for the school board. Fort Worth ISD spent $59,270 on the search, according to the June, July and August public list of checks from the district. The district issued five 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
- $12,375 on Aug. 31
The new superintendent has three priorities: Accelerate learning for students; work through the district’s 2017 and 2021 bonds; and improve district finances.
In an interview with the Midland Reporter-Telegram, Ramsey described Fort Worth ISD as going through challenging financial times and called the district’s $40 million general fund deficit unsustainable.
Besides the deficit, Fort Worth ISD’s other financial issues include lower state funding and dealing with sending $2 million in excess property tax revenue to the state of Texas.
Enrollment also is down, further exacerbating financial issues, since state funding is largely based on the average daily attendance of districts. Fort Worth ISD had 71,978 students on Aug. 24, according to figures the Report obtained through an open records request. This year’s budget was based on an enrollment of 72,981 students.
As for student outcomes, Ramsey walks into a district with improved academic performance. The Texas Education Agency gave Fort Worth ISD a B in its accountability rating system — an increase from C in 2019, the last time grades were doled out to districts. Improvements on the district’s 2021 performance on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness fueled the higher grade.
While English-speaking students saw improvements on STAAR tests, those who took the exam in Spanish did not. More than one out of three Fort Worth ISD students are bilingual or English learners. Ramsey values bilingual education after she grew up speaking Spanish and taking bilingual classes in California.
However, these improvements, while good, are not enough for the school board. Trustees expect schools to sustain their growth and see more improvement in the 2022-23 academic year.
Ramsey recognizes this reality. She plans to put Fort Worth ISD on an upward trajectory.
Board Secretary CJ Evans pointed out that one of the next key steps for Ramsey and trustees is to reexamine the school board’s goals for student outcomes so Fort Worth ISD can improve.
Trustees Camille Rodriguez and Michael Ryan reminded meeting attendees that it will take the entire community pitching in to transform Fort Worth ISD into the best it can be for students.
The new superintendent also sees the ever-changing political atmosphere around schools. Ramsey previously told the Report she wants to listen to parents, taxpayers, students and staff and bring them together to improve the district.
During the superintendent search, parents stressed they wanted a superintendent who is present, listens and previously worked for a large, urban school district.
Blanco-Davis, the teacher, said Fort Worth ISD was once a leader in education — one that other districts looked to emulate. He is hopeful the district can reclaim that title.
“I want to see Fort Worth back to that spot again,” he said.
Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.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.