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Fort Worth School Trustees Pick Santa Fe Superintendent To Lead The District

Santa Fe Public Schools

Fort Worth school district trustees made their choice for superintendent over the weekend. During a special morning meeting Saturday, the board voted unanimously in favor of Joel D. Boyd, who’s currently the superintendent of schools in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The man tapped to lead Fort Worth schools is someone the district’s trustees describe as having an infectious energy that inspires others.

“He’s an excellent communicator,” said board president Norman Robbins. “He wants to spend most of his time out in the community or out in the schools as opposed to being in his office.”

Trustees voted 7-0 to offer Boyd the top job. Two trustees – Jacinto Ramos, Jr. and Judy Needham – couldn’t attend the meeting but Robbins read statements from them in support of Boyd.

Robbins said Boyd’s resume and track record in New Mexico are impressive. The 35-year-old received his doctorate from Harvard University and has two masters degrees. Robbins said what really stands out is what Boyd’s done in Santa Fe schools.

“He has closed the achievement gap and improved student achievement,” Robbins said. “He’s lowered the dropout rate. He’s done all of the things that we want him to do in our district, and we think he has the ability to do that in very short order.”

Trustees began the search process with more than 100 applicants from 43 states. They whittled that down to a group of 16 candidates, which they talked to via Skype. Seven semi-finalists were interviewed in person.

During the brief meeting, trustee Ashley Paz expressed her confidence in Boyd and the search firm Ray and Associates the district hired last fall.

It took a long time, but they used that time well and I have no doubt in my mind that they’re bringing us the best superintendent in the U.S.,” Paz said. “I think this is a very exciting time to be part of Fort Worth ISD.”

Boyd replaces Walter Dansby, who resigned last June amid a contentious relationship with the board. After his resignation, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram obtained a copy of Dansby’s evaluation, which showed he needed improvement in four of six areas. Eight of the nine trustees also scored him as failing to meet expectations. Patricia Linares, who retired from the district as deputy superintendent, has been serving as interim superintendent.

Christene Moss, who voted against Dansby’s resignation, says she’s excited about hiring Boyd.

“We thought he was a good fit for our students and for this community,” Moss said. “He really interviewed extremely well and we were just happy with his portfolio and what he had done for students in other school districts.”

If Boyd accepts the job, he’ll be moving from a district with 14,000 students to one that has 86,000. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the district announced Friday that its graduation rate last year rose 4 percentage points to 64.3 percent. Boyd also started a new program that gets student’s who’ve dropped out back in school.

During his State of the Schools speech last year, Boyd didn’t take all the credit for the district’s recent gains.

“We can’t simply suggest that there’s been some type of silver bullet or magic switch,” Boyd told the audience. “This work that we see in our public schools is not about me. It’s not about the individuals who work in our schools. It’s about this entire community.”

Under Texas law, the school board must wait 21 days before offering Boyd a contract. If he’s selected, he’ll become the 25th superintendent in the Fort Worth school district.

Watch Boyd give the State of the Schools address last year.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.