The Change Agent

Dr. Kent Scribner
Superintendent of Forth Worth, TX Schools

The Objective

To detail the work of one school district in managing the Covid crisis through strong leadership and an emphasis on core values.

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Show Notes

In this District Spotlight, guest Dr. Kent Scribner, Superintendent of Fort Worth ISD, shares their response to the pandemic. Dr. Scribner also discusses leadership in times of crisis and how Fort Worth ISD is working to meet student needs through the Leadership Academy Network, a 5 year partnership with Texas Wesleyan University established to sustain the rising academic achievements of the District’s five Leadership Academies.

Host Bio: Dr. Chris Balow is the Chief Academic Officer at SchoolMint. Dr. Balow has a Ph.D in Educational Psychology and served for 33 years as an educator in various roles with focuses on literacy, mental health, and the behavioral and emotional growth of students. He has worked the last 6 years in the educational technology field to promote student success on a larger scale.

Episode 8
Title: District Spotlight: Fort Worth Independent School District
Subtitle: Leading through adversity

VoiceOver (00:02):

ChangeAgents In K-12 is presented by SchoolMint and features top educators, practitioners, and leaders sharing research and experiences as well as stories of hope, opportunity, and student success.

Dr. Chris Balow (00:16):

Welcome to the podcast, everyone. This is Chris Balow and I am very pleased to have with us today, Dr. Kent Scribner, who is superintendent of the Fort worth independent school district, where he serves 84,000 students. In support of the district's mission of preparing all students for success in college career and community leadership. Dr. Scribner has narrowed the district focus to three goals, early literacy, middle years, math and college and career preparedness. This has resulted in significant gains in third grade, reading algebra and renewed commitment to college and career readiness in 2015 Fort worth students are in $36 million in scholarships. A figure that is more than tripled now to 135 million under Dr. Scribner's leadership Forth Worth ISD has been consistently improving in district letter grade scores. In fact, the district was cited by the Texas education agency as one of the top Texas urban districts, and year to year positive growth. Dr. Scribner began his career in education as a high school teacher and also a guidance counselor in Philadelphia. He then became a principal central office administrator prior to serving for 17 years as a superintendent in both Phoenix, Arizona, and now in Fort worth. Dr. Scribner has a BA in Latin American studies, a master's in education and counseling from temple and a PhD in ed leadership and policy studies from Arizona state together. He and his wife have four children. Dr. Scribner, welcome to the podcast.

Dr. Kent Scribner (01:55):

Great to be here. Thank you very much for the invitation.

Dr. Chris Balow (01:57):

Awesome. Well, great. Well, let's get started. Um, you lead a very large school district, urban school district. Give us a sense of what that's like to lead such a large district.

Dr. Kent Scribner (02:09):

Well, as I now wrap up my 18th year as a superintendent, uh, really, uh, the, the different places that I have served, um, really have prepared each one prepared me for the next first, starting out in a small district in Phoenix of about 8,000 students, uh, then the Phoenix union high school district, which is about, which is the umbrella district to about 130,000 students across the city of Phoenix. That was a high school district of about 27,000. Now, I think it's even larger than that. And then, uh, now in Fort worth with 84,000 students and, uh, and 10,000 employees are really the, the, the idea of scale, um, has been, uh, something of, of, of a challenge for me moving here in the first year. It's really, you know, my style of leadership is to, is to listen, uh, to learn and then to lead. And when we're talking about layers of employees, we have 5,600 teachers really to get to, to understand their voice. You need systems two way flow of communication. So for me, uh, leading a large district, uh, is, um, is, is both challenging on the internal domain, but also on the external domain. Uh, in my previous experiences, there had been many districts in the city in Fort worth. Uh, we, we, we cover the majority of the city. And in your role as the school superintendent is akin to, uh, in terms of, um, kind of notoriety and, and identification as mayor or the County judge or the police chief. So it really is, it's a great deal of responsibility. One that, that, that, that I love because you really can make a positive impact. Fort worth has been they've, um, welcomed me with open arms. Uh, they understand the importance of schools, the connection between education and the economy, uh, and as the district goes, so goes to city. So from that perspective, while it's challenging, it's been a great, great opportunity for us to, to leverage, leverage our success towards the success of the city.

Dr. Chris Balow (04:22):

Excellent. You mentioned systems and structures. What, how have you structured your leadership team to support this massive effort you're undertaking?

Dr. Kent Scribner (04:31):

Well, when I, when I got here, um, I was the fourth superintendent in five years. Oh my gosh. Uh, so, so the district had gone through a great deal of change. And in my first, um, cabinet meeting, we had 24 people in the room. So, uh, there was, it was more of an informational conversation, very little strategic forward, kind of thinking more and more and more kind of administrivia as we say. So we, we flattened the organization. I now I have, um, 10, 10 individuals on what we call the leadership team, and we've just promoted our chief of staff to the position of deputy superintendent. So she, uh, is, is really running the internal domain on a day to day basis and brings me in when necessary. What that has allowed me to do is really work from the outside, in and as a leader. Uh, now almost 20 years of a superintendency, I tell people the only way I know how to be a superintendent is through a collective impact lens, working from the outside in really motivating our business community to understand that investing in our students is the right thing to do. It's companies are looking for bilingual by literate, uh, employees will, those, those future employees are in our classrooms right now, our business community, our, our philanthropic community, our social service agencies, our faith leaders are very important here in Fort worth. Are nonprofits really getting everyone in the community, uh, focused around a few very important goals. You mentioned them in the, in the introduction early literacy, middle years, math and college career. In fact, we've created a two organizations, one co-chaired by the mayor read Fort worth focused on early literacy from birth to third grade. The goal there is improving third grade reading across the city, the a, the middle years math. Obviously we know that freshmen algebra is a great predictor of success in high school, and really a predictor of those students who will struggle in our, in our, our potential, um, uh, uh, statistics. And we don't want that. So we want to make sure our, our middle school students are algebra ready when they get to ninth grade, and then finally college and career preparedness. Um, we are starting another nonprofit called T3, uh, Fort worth is in Terrance County, Tarrant County. So we're saying Tarrant to and through, through, uh, high school, through Taron County colleges and post-secondary, um, uh, graduation with, uh, with a degree or a license or a certification Fort worth is one of the hotspots in America for high wage, high skill high, uh, for high school employee. If high school graduates, we can get our kids graduated with a, with a license or a certification. There are family sustaining wages waiting for them on the other end.

Dr. Chris Balow (07:22):

That is fantastic. I love that notion of outside and leadership. So in that model, you've got really great people on the inside. You delegate, they they're doing the work you're, you're helping supporting, but then you're working with all these other outside agencies to really provide this comprehensive citywide, uh, supportive education. It sounds like.

Dr. Kent Scribner (07:45):

Well, yeah, I mean, systems are perfectly built to deliver the results that they're getting. So we had to change the organizational structure in order to change the results, focusing on continuous improvement. And obviously we know that organizations are made up of people. So this is the people business. And I believe the job of a leader is to got to create followers, but rather to create more leaders. And that's why when we got here, we really wanted to listen and learn so that then we could lead.

Dr. Chris Balow (08:12):

Absolutely. So with, you know, the, the COVID-19 pandemic and suspending in person instruction after spring break from a leadership perspective, how did that, how did that all go down?

Dr. Kent Scribner (08:25):

Well, the last day that students in Fort worth Texas attended a public school, any school was on March the sixth, which is the Friday before our spring break. We had students in, in class, on March the sixth had spring break, and then the coronavirus pandemic really hit Texas. And, um, and we closed down. So students will, our first day of school right now is, is scheduled for August 17th. So, but the time March 6th and August 17th is literally over five months, students will have been out of school for more than five months. That's why we always are worried about summer slide. Well, we expect to see academic regression of his, uh, historic levels, uh, when we, when we get back to, to school, whether that be in person or online, and particularly for our youngest students are kindergarten first and second grade. What, when, what happened very quickly as we pivoted to an online platform like everyone else in the country, which really was an emergency response, and we needed to be flexible, we needed to react very quickly. We needed to build the plane while we were flying it, as they say, we have 25 and 30 year veteran teachers for exceptional teachers. Well, they all became first year teachers last spring because they had never provided instruction via Chromebook. In fact, all of us I've used zoom, zoom, and Chromebooks and, and Microsoft team more and more in the last several months that I have ever in my life. I think it's changed. All of us really wanted to do is understand first, the need, quickly rolling out surveys and connecting with parents and families. And we found that Fort worth, uh, like many other large urban districts, which serves a, a predominantly, uh, low income and language language, minority community, 85% of our students are economically disadvantaged as per the definition in the state of Texas 89% of our students are students of color. Uh, we found that there was in fact, a great digital divide and quickly jumped into action, distributing 24,000 devices, Chromebooks, and, and hotspots in particular. Uh, and, and actually to this day now last week, we just spent an additional $2.4 million on, uh, on over 10,000 more, uh, hotspots, uh, that that's a short term fix. We have to do some longer term investment in order to, um, to close the digital divide and ensure the same level of opportunity across the district and that not to mention the home, the home home circumstances, uh, many of our students' parents, um, they're the ones who are, who are working during this time. Uh, when we, when we go to a restaurant and pick up curbside, or when we go to the grocery store, it is, it is the parents of the students in our schools that are, that are keeping this economy going. So, so we really want to want to make sure that we are, that we're supportive and investing in their students as the assets that they truly are.

Dr. Chris Balow (11:27):

Yeah. I've talked to a lot of superintendents and, uh, some were prepared more than others and just putting that basic infrastructure in place in terms of computers and hotspots, let alone the actual instruction. And, you know, one of the things I've heard too about distance learning is that a lot of kids didn't even, you know, sign in, uh, on, on the, uh, the virtual instruction. Did you have a sense of that, your district? How did your kids do?

Dr. Kent Scribner (11:54):

We, we, uh, we really, um, made a, made an effort to, to connect with our students over 96% were participating. And, but that took a great deal of, of work. Uh, um, obviously moving forward now, uh, should, should we reopen in an online setting, uh, depending on what the County health department dictates? Uh, we, we are in a much better position today for a virtual learning 2.0, uh, in Fort worth, as opposed to the, to the, uh, quick pivot that we all did. Our plan is to identify our best teacher, our most effective instructors and, and have them prerecord a portion of a lesson, uh, and engage with our students that way. So let me explain, uh, much like the Ted talks, not every person, uh, kusai who asked to be on the Ted talk is, is invited to do so. So what we've done is we've identified our top 200 teachers, uh, and we've asked them to provide a, kind of a YouTube, uh, instruction of a fourth grade math curriculum for the week, or, uh, or, uh, algebra or, uh, or, uh, a high school physics. And then they will deliver the instruction. And then the classroom teacher will follow up and implement and reteach and do small group work and assign homework and do and do that so that we can really, um, kind of have some quality control there further in Fort worth. Our plan today, uh, is that if, if we are in a, uh, in a virtual setting, that our teachers will, will come to school and, and online instruction will originate from a Fort worth ISD classroom or professional development center. Uh, we really want to want to provide them the guidance and the support and the, and the communication that they need from, from their local school principals. For instructional staff. We did hear from parents last spring, that there was a wide range of instructional quality. So we wanted, we certainly wanted to tighten that up in Texas, uh, in order to, um, be credited for a day of attendance. Uh, students from sixth grade through the 12th grade would need to be engaged in online learning whether a synchronous or asynchronous for four hours, those students third through fifth for three hours. And, and we're, and we're navigating the, the, the possibilities of social distancing and bringing back our youngest learners, uh K-1-2 as well as our students with special needs, uh, some of our English, English language learners as well, those students who are the most difficult to, to educate via via computer, who would benefit the most from in-person. We wanna, we want to get them in the, in, in classroom. We all, we all understand the best place for our students to learn is in a school building in classroom with, with the live teacher.

Dr. Chris Balow (14:53):

Yeah, absolutely. You know, as a former special educator, I, there there's just, you know, kids with disabilities, depending on the disability. There's really not much you can do virtually that they need to be more hands on. So, so that's excellent. So it's, you've already kind of described how you're preparing for the school year. Um, have you, I'm sure there's been some discussions about hybrid learning models where it may be, the kids will be home a few days and in the classroom a few days, what are your thoughts on that?

Dr. Kent Scribner (15:23):

So, so we have explored that now, every, every state has a different context in the state of Texas, the guidelines that we have never, we have received thus far have indicated that, um, short of a, um, uh, County health, uh, declaration, that the only way for us to be funded for student attendance in a virtual setting is if a school building is open. And, and, and if, if, if a parent can, can bring a student to school. So the concept of two days off, two days on right now is not being explored in any great depth in, in Fort worth. Uh, we're we, we really, um, want to make schools, um, available. Um, and again, the, the PRI the primary goal is to have students in school, but, um, but we're anticipating a scenario in which that won't be possible, at least for, for part of the, of the school year, likely what we will see as a, is a stop and start scenario, whereby students are at home learning at home, and then, uh, for a period, hopefully be at being able to attend in person.

Dr. Chris Balow (16:27):

Great. It sounds like you're really preparing, and I, I like the idea of, um, these highly experienced teachers recording the lessons, and that really provides like a virtual coaching for all your other teachers. Um, and everyone can grow and learn from each other, uh, in that model that that's really unique. So I hope a lot of people listening, uh, pick up on that idea. So let's talk about, um, leadership in the change in midst of this crisis. How did, how did the leadership change?

Dr. Kent Scribner (16:59):

Well, as I said, my, my theory is, uh, is about, you know, uh, listening, learning and leading, uh, that, that cycle though happens much more rapidly, uh, in a crisis. Uh, it has to be an iterative process. There is no blueprint for education during a pandemic. So, so we are, we are literally building it as we go by, uh, uh, kind of philosophical, um, a belief around public school and, and education leadership is that it really boils down to two, four values excellence. We want to make sure every student has the opportunity to exceed at the highest level of their God, given ability equity, not every student is starting the educational race at the educational starting line and equity as a policy issue is because it's not about addressing an issue. It's about redressing our sins of the past and efficiency. We want to make sure that we're operating efficiently, that we have a stable, um, system that we're not wasting resources. And then of course, choice, uh, students and families should be able to choose the schools that they attend. Schools should not be choosing, uh, students and family. Uh, so we really want to want to provide those, those opportunities, leadership and crisis also, uh, when we reflect back, it was, it was less amazing to say, but the, the great recession of 2008, nine, 10 pales in comparison to what we're about, what we're about to dive into here. But, uh, but leadership and crisis though, does allow you to refocus on your core values. Uh, when we, when, when things are, are, are comfortable and, uh, we're, we're prosperous, we tend to, to expand and drift our mission begins to drift, and we, we start doing superfluous programming and superfluous things. This really forces us to, uh, the metaphor I always gave was kind of have a garage sale where those things that are not, that are not crucial to our core mission, um, they, they can be, uh, uh, sent elsewhere. And we doubled down on what were really the, the, the work that we really need to be doing.

Dr. Chris Balow (19:09):

You talked about a school choice for parents, and I've heard in some quarters that, you know, parents may be choosing just to homeschool nowadays with the pandemic and so forth. What have you heard in, in, in your community along those lines?

Dr. Kent Scribner (19:25):

Well, we're not seeing that yet in Fort worth. In fact, uh, it's our, it's our goal that, uh, that the best place is for students would be in a Fort worth classroom. And, uh, the, the quality professional learning plans regarding, uh, uh, synchronous learning and the asynchronous learning on a online is, uh, is certainly something that we, that we, that we believe parents will, will benefit from our choice from, from our perspective. Uh, we have many, many programs across the district schools, across the district, um, Montessori applied learning, uh, STEM, visual, and performing arts and, uh, and science, technology, engineering, mathematics, single gender schools. We really want to provide a portfolio of options for our parents. And, and yes, the pandemic will end. I mean, we'll pull together and we will get through this. And then, uh, and then again, as long as we continue to keep our eye on the ball and, and, and, and redouble our efforts toward our core mission, I think that this is an opportunity for us to, to land stronger than within when we've been, we began.

Dr. Chris Balow (20:28):

Yeah, that's excellent. So what I'm hearing too. So if there's a program in a school that, that really resonates with a parent and student that they could apply and go to a different school within the district.

Dr. Kent Scribner (20:40):

Absolutely. Our, our, um, our P-TECH programs in partnership with, uh, with local businesses at the high school level, uh, whether it be Lockheed Martin or bill or bill, uh, aeronautics or, or any number of, uh, of, of company McAfee and, uh, and cybersecurity, great opportunities there early college, high school as well. And though, interesting thing for me is, uh, what I liked a lot about the, about the policies here in Texas is that those specialized, uh, schools must have a representative demographic as compared to the larger student population. So that that really provides, uh, an opportunity for both excellence and equity. They do not need to be competing values. Uh, we, we, can do both.

Dr. Chris Balow (21:28):

Wow. That's some, some amazing opportunities you offer the students in Fort worth. That that's really, really exciting. So speaking of equity, you mentioned that one of your kind of four pillars, how has your district responded to the national movement for racial reconciliation?

Dr. Kent Scribner (21:46):

Well, I'm very proud to say that, uh, upon arriving here in Fort worth, it was clear to me that this already was an issue prior to the, uh, to the, to the most recent tragedies we established in 2016, a division of equity and excellence. Uh, that group, um, was charged with, uh, examining our system, uh, looking at systemic racism. And in fact, when we talk about equity in Fort worth ISD, we are isolating race. We talk about racial equity and we have, uh, conducted implicit bias training for all levels of our staff or administrators for teachers, for our campus monitors, for our bus drivers, for everyone in the system. Uh, we've really embraced the courageous conversations work, uh, where we are identifying, um, isolating race and looking at, looking at systems. We have, um, uh, weekly, uh, equity, um, forums. And now, now those are taking place, uh, on, um, on virtually. Uh, and, and we're really looking at that in a, in a proactive way. In fact, what, what, what we, what we believe is that our equity division is not a silo standalone, but rather their work needs to be embedded in everything we do from academics to budgeting, to hiring to every aspect of a school.

Dr. Chris Balow (23:07):

Yeah, absolutely. For me, a lot of my work historically has been in the area of school climate, and that certainly dovetails with, with the equity work. Have you done any work around school climate?

Dr. Kent Scribner (23:20):

Yes. And yes. In fact, we have, I think the, the, the biggest challenge there is, is that not, and not everyone is in the same place when it comes to racial equity. So, so there's been some very crucial conversations that need to take place. Thankfully, our leaders, um, are, are embracing this work, uh, working, uh, we have some wonderful teacher leaders who are able to demonstrate the, um, the, the, the importance, the, and the opportunity that exists for their own success, as well as our students' success. Uh, when we, when we address, um, culture and climate, uh, in a, in a, in a way where we're meeting the students, uh, where they are, uh, really kind of culturally competent pedagogy and understanding of the importance of it all, all students means all ALS

Dr. Chris Balow (24:08):

Right, not a regular ed it's or special ed it's, every ed I've heard that term used.

Dr. Kent Scribner (24:15):

Exactly. And I think, and I think here in Fort worth is, is, um, is in the South. And, uh, and we're one of the, of all the major cities in Texas, probably probably the most conservative, uh, as compared to Dallas, Houston, Austin, and others. And so one of the messages that we have provided our leaders in the city akin to the cut of the conversation earlier that education and the economy are inextricably linked, is that the future workforce, uh, of our city, I always joke. I said, I've been in public education for over 30 years. And the one thing I can promise you about schools is that students grow up to be adults. And so the question is, what kind of adult population do you want in Fort worth in the coming in any major city in the coming 10, 20, 30 years in the coming decades? So from our perspective, we really ask our leaders to look at, look at our students. Many of whom, as I said, are economically disadvantaged. Um, many of whom are extremely brilliant, speak more than one language, understand more than one culture, uh, that they in fact are assets to be invested in. There are not problems to be solved. When, when, when we, when people look at our students in Spanish, I call it the [inaudible] syndrome, you know, poor, poor, you people say, Oh, your students are so disadvantaged. I say, you know, if you look at what, what the fortune 500 companies are looking for, they're looking for bilingual, they're looking for bi-cultural, resilient, collaborative employees. I've got almost 84,000 of those in our, in our schools today. So we need to invest in our students. It's not social justice. It's good business sense.

Dr. Chris Balow (25:59):

Yeah. That's an amazing way to frame that. That's an amazing way to frame that for me, historically, one of the factors in terms of school climate and, and equity has been around discipline, I've spent a lot of time with that. How has that played out in your district?

Dr. Kent Scribner (26:18):

Well, we, we are a unfortunately like most major major systems, and that's a great, uh, focus where we're where we are. We have isolated race and looking at, looking at the disparities in terms of the percentages of students, African American boys suspended as compared to the population. So when we see that, um, uh, of our 84,000 students, about 63% of our students are our Latin next, uh, 23% African American, 11% are white. And, but we see that the, that the suspension numbers are much different than that. And the disparity where we're, where the African American population, both boys and girls is overrepresented. Now we have to look at the backs and we have to, we have to say, to take, take it head on and understand that this is a systemic issue. Uh, the board has, um, has voted to prohibit, uh, suspensions, uh, K through three. There's talk about expanding that all the way up to fifth grade. We're going to take it take a one year at a time, but really want to look at, um, look at different ways to, to maintain a safe and orderly campuses and, and, and really, uh, look at the implicit bias of teachers and administrators. One very interesting fact in Fort worth is that, um, while we have third, 23% of our population, uh, is African American, but at our campuses, our, our, our principals and assistant principals, that that percentage is 43%. So this is complex stuff we're talking about when we think who is suspending our African American boys and girls, uh, it, it is, it is, it is, it is complex because it is, it is also our African American administrators who really need to analyze, you know, whiteness and, and it'll analyze, um, uh, systemic racism and, and, and reflect on our own each one of our own implicit biases. And, uh, and that is, uh, that's hard work and it's, and it's heart work.

Dr. Chris Balow (28:16):

Yes. Well, I applaud you for taking on that really, really difficult challenge in, in that area. Another area I want to explore for a moment is the mental health needs of kids and the social, emotional learning needs. We I've been reading a lot about, it's really projected that coming back from COVID. Our kids are going to have even greater needs beyond what they had prior to the pandemic.

Dr. Kent Scribner (28:40):

Right. So, um, we all know that, uh, schools, uh, are often the first place, uh, to report, uh, abuse at the home or suspected abuse at the home mandatory reporters. We, we, we are, it breaks my heart to think of the, um, unreported abuse that may be taking place in our, all of our communities, because students are nodding, we're interacting, uh, with a caring adult, a teacher, a counselor, a principal, a a teacher's aid, one thing that we have done kind of coupled the food delivery services. We, we we've delivered, uh, almost 900,000 meals, uh, since the beginning of the, uh, of, of the pandemic. Well, uh, with the, uh, additionally with the, with the devices and the hotspots that computers and hotspots, um, we have a team who's doing front porch visits and bringing a social worker, bringing in instructional person, bringing a counselor and, and just engaging with, with parents where, while we're having those exchanges and getting a sense that if everything's okay in the house now, now, obviously that is not a comprehensive answer to need to interact with all 84,000 of our students. We can help them, not only academically, but socially and emotionally, um, really, uh, benefiting from the digital, uh, work, the digital divide and, uh, and, and attacking that so that we can do some online, um, predictive work and communication with parents and students in particular. Um, these are, these are huge, huge issues we do have, we do have surveys that go out, and if the answers come back with, uh, with specific responses, it triggers a, a home visit. Uh, again, uh, that's, that's not a perfect system, but, but really, um, um, it's responding to the incredible need that exists.

Dr. Chris Balow (30:31):

Yeah. I think of the great challenge facing teachers when the kids come back, if, if they are suffering from trauma, not only do they have academic slide, but now they're dealing with a whole new set of mental health issues. Teachers will have a lot on their plate and talking about teachers. Um, one of the things I'm hearing from a lot of superintendents is about professional development and how to really deliver great professional development to really help teachers cope with all of this. And, and, uh, I see across the country reductions in the availability of funds and time for PD, have you faced that challenge as well?

Dr. Kent Scribner (31:07):

Well, yes, absolutely. And now more than ever, do we need to have a professional learning plans for our, for our teachers, particularly when we're looking at the, um, uh, virtual learning, uh, uh, synchronous learning and asynchronous learning, uh, the, the unexpected expenditures that we all have, um, uh, responding to COVID-19 and preparing schools for students, um, that costs money. We, we, no one ever thought that we would be, uh, uh, purchasing PPE that we'd be purchasing fog machines, hand sanitizer, plexiglass, that, that our buses, our transportation departments in order to maintain social distancing may need to, uh, double the number of routes. So, so all of that costs money. And, uh, and what we really need to do is recognize that if we're going to get through this, um, there needs to be a significant investment, uh, in, in public schools. Um, we, we we've seen the, um, the federal government, um, um, help support the, the corporations. Uh, now we believe the, um, the, the local local, uh, government and school and police and fire, um, also need an investment in order to keep, to keep our ships float until we can get through this pandemic and the economy.

Dr. Chris Balow (32:23):

Yeah, it's a huge challenge. Um, in some States districts have been told to plan on a certain percentage cut in funding. Uh, how has Texas, how have they approached the districts?

Dr. Kent Scribner (32:36):

Texas is going to see a, again, a historic in 2011, we had a $27 billion hole in the budget and public schools cut $5.4 billion, significant percentage. I was still, I was in Texas yet. I was still a superintendent in Arizona at the time, but we saw the same drastic cuts, uh, in, in, in Arizona's economy, uh, based primarily on housing. The economy in Texas, uh, is supported schools, school finance anyway, supported primarily by sales tax and the oil and gas prices, oil and gas prices have been at historic lows. Uh, in fact, it, and there was one period where we're, uh, we, it was costing money to, uh, distribute. So, so, um, that we are expecting a dramatic drop there and sales tax across the country, as a result of the shutdowns, um, has seen, uh, uh, drops. So we're bracing for this. Uh, and, uh, and, and in Texas the legislative session, um, uh, it will begin in January in Texas, the legislature meets every other year and sets the, um, that's the finance formula for the biennium. Uh, we've done that already. The formula is still set for this year, but cash collections have not happened. So we really want to keep an eye on that. And, uh, and ensure that we have not only flexibility at the local level to implement program, but the ability in terms of our, of our funding, uh, floor, so that we can keep folks employed and serving students, we need more, more, uh, staff, uh, and, uh, as opposed to less.

Dr. Chris Balow (34:07):

Yeah, absolutely. And as we've talked about the increasing needs that kids are gonna face, uh, academically and social emotionally, well, one last question before we wrap up, Dr. Scribner is, um, I noticed on your website, this really innovative program called the Leadership Academy Network. Tell us a little bit about that.

Dr. Kent Scribner (34:27):

Well, we're very proud of our leadership academies. Um, uh, when I came here, it was clear to me that we needed to really shake up. Um, a few of our campuses, we serve 143 schools, and there were five campuses, uh, who had historically been underperforming, um, uh, one as campuses, if you will, one for four, five years, one for six years, a couple for four years in a row. And that is just, just unacceptable to allow students to be locked into that system. So we, we actually replicated a program, um, from our neighbor to the East Dallas ISD that was called the ACE program, accelerating classroom excellence. Uh, we rebranded it and called it the leadership academies. And here's how that works. We take each one of those five campuses for elementary and middle school, and we invite the teachers to reapply for their jobs at the end of the school year. Um, many of them moved to other campuses and some of them retired and some of them went to other districts. Um, but we, we reconstituted each one of those campuses, about 160 teachers. We invited, identified our top performing teachers based on student access, expected student achievement and actual student achievement. So those, those teachers who's who's, um, who's last three years, uh, in a regression analysis, um, achieved higher than, than would be expected. We invited them to apply to be employed at one of these five campuses. So we wanted our best teachers to go to the communities and the schools in the greatest need. We offered those teachers each a $10,000 stipend to incentivize them. Adults respond to a set of always have always will a principal's a $15,000 incentive, but they earned those stipends. Cause school did not end at three o'clock school. It was extended till four o'clock with an extra hour of reading and mathematics. What do students need, who are behind? They need more time on task with highly qualified teachers and students didn't go home at 4:00 PM. They remained our philanthropic community here in Fort worth is pound for pound. The best that I've ever been around. And they invested an additional million dollars. It took about a million dollars a campus. So the whole, the whole, um, uh, initiative is $6 million a year, uh, $5 million for the reach school during the day and an extra million dollars for the afterschool program, uh, funded by the rainwater foundation where students received afterschool tutoring, they received a, um, uh, opportunities for fine arts for enrichment, for athletics. And then they were served dinner at five 45, and then the bus took them home at 6:00 PM. Wow. Really, really, uh, attorney attorney that the trajectory and the first year, um, every school got a, went from an F to a B letter grade B, one of them, the only other one was a 79. And, and we, we really want to continue that upward trajectory. Uh, and, and we took our seal team, six teachers, our top teachers, and incentivize them go and for our students, the greatest need, and it really, really works. I recommend it.

Dr. Chris Balow (37:35):

Wow. That's a, that's a great way to end this podcast, Dr. Scribner with such a positive story of, of great things happening in Fort worth. Um, before we let you go, you have to participate in our little game called this or that, where I say two things, and you tell us which one you prefer, and then you can give us the rationale as to why you like something. And they're very simple. Uh, none of them are too personal. So a dog or cat,

Dr. Kent Scribner (38:06):


Dr. Chris Balow (38:06):

Dog. Okay. Cake or pie?

Dr. Kent Scribner (38:10):

I would say pie. And since I'm in Texas pecan pie,

Dr. Chris Balow (38:16):

Yes. You can't beat that. Do you like big parties or small gathering?

Dr. Kent Scribner (38:21):

I like small gatherings. Uh, I spend a lot of time with a lot of people, a lot of evening functions, and there's no better place in the world than my back porch on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

Dr. Chris Balow (38:36):

There you go. Facebook or Twitter?

Dr. Kent Scribner (38:38):


Dr. Chris Balow (38:38):

Twitter. Okay. Uh, football or basketball?

Dr. Kent Scribner (38:43):

Uh, I've uh, 30 years and 30 pounds ago. I played college basketball at Carlton. So I'd say, I'd say basketball.

Dr. Chris Balow (38:51):

Oh, good. Me too. I'm a basketball junkie. Um, do you like a nice car or a nice home interior?

Dr. Kent Scribner (38:59):

Um, I would say a nice home interior.

Dr. Chris Balow (39:02):

Okay. All right.

Dr. Kent Scribner (39:04):

Nice car. A nice car is talking to other people. A nice home interior is, is, is about, is about you and your family.

Dr. Chris Balow (39:10):

There you go. You prefer jogging or hiking?

Dr. Kent Scribner (39:14):

I prefer hiking.

Dr. Chris Balow (39:16):

All right. Okay. Online shopping or shopping in a store?

Dr. Kent Scribner (39:20):

Well, it used to be shopping in a store, but now during this pandemic, I've gotten quite, um, quite adept at, uh, in online shopping.

Dr. Chris Balow (39:28):

Yeah. Haven't we all.

Dr. Kent Scribner (39:30):

Not as good as my wife.

Dr. Chris Balow (39:32):

Okay. Hamburger or taco?

Dr. Kent Scribner (39:35):

Taco. Absolutely.

Dr. Chris Balow (39:37):

Okay. iOS or Android?

Dr. Kent Scribner (39:39):


Dr. Chris Balow (39:39):

iOS. Car or truck?

Dr. Kent Scribner (39:44):

Boy. I've had both. Um, and I'm probably going to go against the grain here in Texas, but I'll say car.

Dr. Chris Balow (39:48):

Okay. Meat or vegetables.

Dr. Kent Scribner (39:52):


Dr. Chris Balow (39:53):

You can't say both. Come on you're in Texas.

Dr. Kent Scribner (39:57):

I know. Yeah, you're right. It's gotta be meat.

Dr. Chris Balow (40:00):

Gotta go with meat. Last one, and I asked this of everybody toilet paper over or under?

Dr. Kent Scribner (40:07):


Dr. Chris Balow (40:07):

Over. Okay. Most people choose over, but, uh, I had a superintendent this morning. I talked to, he went under so whatever, whatever works and I had one, one, a female superintendent say it doesn't matter. As long as they change the empty one.

Dr. Kent Scribner (40:27):

That's exactly right.

Dr. Chris Balow (40:28):

Then we're good to go. Well, Dr. Scribner, it's been fantastic having you today on the podcast. I know our listeners are going to learn a great deal from, from your insights and experience and thank you so much for taking time.

Dr. Kent Scribner (40:41):

Well, thank you. I really appreciate it. And really enjoy chatting with you.

VoiceOver (40:46):

You've been listening to the ChangeAgents In K-12 podcast brought to you by SchoolMint, be sure to subscribe, so you never miss a show and follow us on social media. Remember our brightest years are still ahead. See you next time.