KERA’s been listening to conversations about race across the education spectrum – from students to school security officers. Fort Worth district superintendent Kent Scribner leads a diverse student population. Almost 23 percent of students are black and 63 percent are Latino. He talked about what he calls ‘the equity conversation’ and the transgender guidelines that thrust him into the spotlight.
Interview Highlights: Kent Scribner...
…On the demographics of his district:
“Well in our community, we’re a majority-minority community. The city of Fort Worth also is majority-minority and the state of Texas as well. So from my perspective, this is not a fringe conversation. This needs to be a mainstream conversation.
We have a greater responsibility beyond reading, writing and math - which is our core mission - but also connecting our students with the support that they need. Our students are not coming from the traditional white picket fence nuclear family of the past. It's a new reality and we have to shift as well as an institution.”
…On discussing race:
“From our perspective, it's an equity conversation. We have to make sure that all students have equal opportunity. The achievement gap academically is - many have, I think, rightly portrayed it - is also an opportunity gap. Not all of our students are starting the educational race at the educational starting line.
It's an expectations gap from the adults in the community. I often say you know, ‘good people can hurt kids too by having low expectations’ and in Spanish, having the pobrecito mentality where we say ‘the kid is low income language minority. How on earth could we expect them to achieve?’ No. Our students need meaningful relationships with adults that are that are strong and ethical and about their - not only academic - but also social, emotional growth.”
…On the federal ruling blocking implementation of the Obama administration's guidance on transgender students:
“It had very little to do with us. We created safety guidelines that became something else and were a popular political topic, but our safety guidelines settled appropriately into support guidelines. The ruling on the eight or 10 page set of guidelines coming from the federal government has nothing to do, quite frankly, with the two-page version we've established here in Fort Worth.”
…On the uproar about the guidelines:
“I think the context here and the timing of that decision had a lot to do with [the uproar]. It was never was my intent for this to become such a big deal. I'm an educator, I'm not an activist and will remain so.”
Kent Scribner is the superintendent of the Fort Worth school district.