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Fort Worth's Incoming Superintendent Says Kids Need Stability, Relevant Instruction

Fort Worth ISD
Kent Paredes Scribner is the lone finalist for superintendent of the Fort Worth school district.

Fort Worth recently tapped Kent Paredes Scribner – who comes from Phoenix – to lead the district after a 21-day waiting period. He spent Monday, the first day of school, meeting with students and teachers. And last week, he sat down with KERA.

Interview Highlights: Kent Paredes Scribner …

… On how different the Fort Worth school district will be from the district in Phoenix:

“It’s one of the three states that does have elementary districts and union high school districts. It will be different. I served for 5 years as superintendent of one of the elementary districts of only 8,000 and currently now serve the umbrella high school district of 27,000. There are 130,000 total students in the K-12 pipeline. With regard to the high school numbers, in fact, I’ll be familiar with the scale here in Fort Worth … One of the things that attracted me the most to this opening was the fact that Fort Worth did serve students from Pre-K all the way to 12th grade. I think the initiative to invest in early childhood is a smart investment.”

… On what it will take to boost student achievement in the schools that were rated as needing improvement:

“One of the things that we talk a lot about in education today is the difference between what our students are experiencing and our focus areas. When you and I went to school, the three R’s were reading, writing and arithmetic and today we focus on rigor, relevance and relationships.

Rigor – ensuring that the curriculum and instruction is challenging. Relevant – that it makes sense to students and their life beyond school. And relationships are essential, that there’s a meaningful and productive and positive relationship between the adults and the students in their classroom.”

On the fact that many superintendents don’t stay past three years in districts:

“I can speak from my own personal experience. I was an elementary school superintendent in Arizona for five years and we saw a steady student improvement. We focused on increasing student achievement, improving customer service within the district and integrating parents and community.

In my current role, I’m in my 8th year as the superintendent and we’ve seen dramatic increases, not only in four year graduation rate but also in college and career preparedness and in rigor.

So from my perspective, I do believe that when there’s instability in governance, when there’s instability in leadership, particularly in large urban city systems, students suffer.”

… On how he reaches out to a diverse student population:

“I think having teachers who are culturally competent … with all groups. From my perspective, I think the entire question is around expectations and it’s around perspective. If we’re looking at our students as problems that need to solved, instead of looking at them as assets that need to be invested in, then they’re going to continue to lag behind.”

On Tuesdays, we chart the journey from childhood to graduation. In the last few weeks, our American Graduate project has explored why it’s tough to lead a large urban school district. 

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.