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Fort Worth's Interim Superintendent On Keeping The School District Going

Fort Worth ISD
Patricia Linares has been Fort Worth's interim superintendent for more than a year.

Dallas is searching for a new school superintendent. So is Fort Worth. They join districts coast to coast that are also looking for new leaders. Over the next few Tuesdays, KERA will explore why it's so tough for a big-city superintendent to survive, let alone thrive. We kick off the series with a conversation with Patricia Linares, the Fort Worth Independent School District's interim superintendent.

The district has spent more than a year with no one permanently in the top job. That comes after Walter Dansby resigned last summer and Joel Boyd withdrew as the sole finalist in February.

Interview Highlights: Patricia Linares ...

... On being the interim superintendent for more than a year:

I believe that when I was named last year on June 12, the goals of the district, of our school board and my personal goals were not to just sustain the district as it was moving, but to move it forward and to do all of the things that any normal superintendent would be doing.

... On how to help the district move forward and make significant changes as interim superintendent:

One of the reasons that you take on a role as superintendent is because you feel that you can affect change. Each of our children in this district, all 86,000 of them, deserve 100 percent of my time and effort to ensure that they get good educational opportunities so that they can continue to succeed. You make changes that are necessary.

... On some of the changes she's made since you’ve been in the interim role?

This year, as in every summer, you have to name principals and assistant principals into the roles as we are still in the process of looking for a superintendent. We have to prepare for next year. And you cannot just sit and wait. You have to be able to name the principals, get school started, make sure you’re prepared and have everybody ready to start the new school year.

... On where the district is in the superintendent search process?

All of the applications were due. Their [the board's] timeline does suggest that they will be doing their interviews and meeting with candidates the next couple of weeks and [the board's] goal is to be able to name a lone finalist sometime the first week of August.

Once you name a lone finalist, you have a 21-day waiting period. Once that 21-day period is concluded, then the board would name a permanent superintendent. According to the timeline, it should be somewhere around the end of August.

... On why many superintendents don't stay in a district more than 3 years.

I don’t know specifically. I think every case is different. As to why superintendents stay about three years, I will say the job of superintendent is extremely difficult especially when you are trying to effect change. Change is not always easy for everyone, so it does cause some difficult situations to occur.

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.