Castleberry ISD voters will decide May 6 whether to keep the status quo or go with another changing of the guard on their school board.
Incumbent trustee Tracy Gallman and challenger Sarah Kelty are seeking the Place 2 seat on the at-large, seven-member school board. The top two issues facing their small, landlocked district are an aging high school and high teacher turnover, they said. The school district of about 3,700 students includes River Oaks and portions of Sansom Park and Fort Worth.
Three new trustees have joined the school board in the past three years. Additionally, Superintendent Renee Smith-Faulkner is in her second year leading Castleberry ISD.
The Place 1 seat is up for election, but Dewey Taliaferro, a branch manager at A-Core Concrete Cutting of Texas, is unopposed. Ccurrent trustee, Kenneth Romo, is not seeking another three-year term.
Early voting begins April 24 and ends May 2. Election Day is May 6.
High teacher turnover rate
In her 2020 campaign for school board, Gallman focused on addressing the community’s dissatisfaction with the district’s high teacher turnover rate.
When Gallman started her term, Castleberry ISD had a 30% turnover rate, according to the 2019-20 Texas Academic Performance Report. The rate is calculated by how many teachers from the previous fall semester didn’t return to the current one. That year’s state average was about 17%.
“We needed to figure out what was happening when you start seeing that type of turnover,” Gallman said.
In the 2021-22 school year, Castleberry ISD’s teacher turnover rate was 24.8% — 7 percentage points higher than the state’s average, according to state data.
“We needed to go a different direction with a new superintendent. That was a hard conversation to have. You’re talking about people’s livelihoods,” Gallman said.
What helped, she said, was shifting the district’s culture to a more employee-friendly environment and putting in place pay incentives.
Kelty, who works in Castleberry ISD’s special education department, still sees the teacher turnover rate as a problem. Other district staff often fill in for teachers when substitutes are not available, Kelty said.
“We’re expected to perform on the same level as a teacher, but we don’t have that structure, not just in pay, but we don’t have the structure developmental-wise,” Kelty said.
Kelty would prioritize improving compensation and training for educators, she said.
“I do believe having better pay and a more structured system in place with accountability for support staff would attract more” educators, Kelty said. “That’s a winning combination for our staff and students alike.”
An aging high school
Both candidates agreed the school board needs to address aging infrastructure, particularly at Castleberry High School in River Oaks, west of Trinity River. The high school was built Sept 8, 1955. The latest upgrades to the building were done about 15 years ago, according to high school administrators.
The school board should consider building a new high school to replace Castleberry High, Kelty said.
“One of the teachers told me it’s really hard to teach 21st-century technology in a Cold War-era building,” Kelty said.
The school district is assembling a bond proposal to improve Castleberry High School, Gallman said. Students deserve safe and functional spaces in which to learn, she said.
“We all know, and research proves, our surroundings, our everyday climate and culture matters to our behaviors and thus matters to outcomes,” Gallman said.
Juan Salinas II is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 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. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.