Static: Wednesday, March 31, 2005
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Toss Bathwater, Not Baby

When Tom Tocco shook the Fort Worth school district’s dust off his penny loafers in December, he left with more than half a million in tax dollars in his pocket for his last year of work — and a district that’s broke and bleeding in pocketbook as well as in spirit. So what did the leaders of said district do? They hired Melody Johnson (with only two years of superintendent experience on her resumé) to replace him at a salary greater than any other superintendent in the state — $300,000 — and paid a consultant some big bucks to tell them that, in order to stem the hemorrhaging, they were gonna have to start closing schools.
With the district facing a deficit of $23 million, thanks to a litany of callous or questionable decisions made on Tocco’s watch, a Florida consulting firm has recommended putting four of the district’s Title I schools on the chopping block: Van Zandt-Guinn Elementary, named for two of Cowtown’s founding families — one white, one black — is on the list along with Nash, Washington Heights or Kirkpatrick and at least one elementary school in the Dunbar-Stop Six area. These schools serve communities so poor that the schools qualify for federal bucks to help educate the kids. One board member, Juan Rangel, found it curious that not one neighborhood school in an affluent part of town drew the black bean — even though any number of them, he told Static, meet the same criteria used to identify the four poor schools as a major drain on the district’s budget. “What’s sauce for the goose oughta be sauce for the gander,” he said.
Truth is, none of Fort Worth’s schools ought to be shuttered because one superintendent and a majority of the board failed in their fiscal duties for the past 10 years. Closing Van Zandt, the consultants estimate, will save $600,000 a year. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to just one of Tocco’s boondoggles — a computer math program that has cost an average of $2.2 million a year, and that consultants and many teachers say doesn’t work well. Losing it might be enough to save Van Zandt and all of the targeted schools — and hire a few good math teachers to boot.

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