Update 11 p.m.
Fort Worth school board members emerged from a closed-door meeting late Tuesday to approve a public censure of Trustee Ann Sutherland. Read the Star-Telegram article here.
Board President Judy Needham read a nine-point resolution accusing Sutherland of violating the code of ethics and district policy. After a brief public discussion, the board voted 6-0 to approve the reprimand, with Ashley Paz, one of the board’s new members, abstaining.
The accusations against Sutherland include that she micromanaged and harassed campus employees, threatened to have principals fired and accused the district’s chief financial officer of violating the law. The resolution said she disclosed confidential information and discussed items not posted on board agendas, in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act.
The resolution says Sutherland "violated the trust of the constituents of the Fort Worth Independent School District." Later, it says the board "does condemn her conduct in the strongest terms."
The resolution said the board is acting because it found Sutherland “has violated the duties of her office and censuring her for her actions which are contrary to board policy and/or standards for board members.”
Sutherland immediately expressed her displeasure.
“I wish to object to this in the strongest possible terms,” she said.
Sutherland's website statement reads, in part:
"The censure motion was made available to me at 8 p.m. on Tuesday. There were no facts, just assertions. This makes it very hard to rebut, but I disagreed with all of them—including the fact that I threatened principals.
"Board members promise to do their best to further the welfare of the FWISD community and I take my promises seriously. As carefully as any board member I have studied each board agenda, answered questions and comments from members of the community, and investigated issues brought to my attention. ... The information I requested has revealed a number of significant problems which have been addressed as a result of my inquiry and subsequent research. "
Meanwhile, Needham issued this statement after the vote:
"This censure was passed tonight as a last possible measure to urge Dr. Ann Sutherland to follow board policy. In the past 3 years, she has harmed the district and demoralized staff by her many deeds and statements that do not adhere to Board policy and ethics. We hope she will join us in being a team player and policy maker in following board policy and working on behalf of our children."
Update Tuesday 6:30 p.m.
At tonight's school board meeting, some spoke on behalf of Sutherland during the public comment time early in the meeting. A possible board vote to censure, or reprimand, Sutherland is the final action item on the agenda. Here's the Star-Telegram report on the matter.
Speaker Elizabeth McLaughlin, a Wedgwood resident, said Sutherland has been an effective voice for her constituents and educators in Southwest Fort Worth. She called the trustee accessible and knowledgeable and said Sutherland does her homework.
On Monday, Sutherland issued this statement:
"Most of my work has centered on class size, services to school sites and the care of our finances. I have sent one request for information approximately each two weeks of my three-year tenure. The information I requested has revealed a number of significant problems which have been addressed as a result of my work. I refer specifically to:
- the finding that FWISD student performance had fallen below comparison districts from next to the top to next to the bottom during the tenure of Supt. Melody Johnson,
- publication of the audit finding in 2010 indicating that no one was reconciling our $600-million in funds each month, which was withheld from the board for 3 months,
- many of our classrooms had no substitutes when teachers were absent,
- creeping increases in funding in the central office ($18 million) at the expense of a $20 million cut in our classrooms, and
- raises averaging over $600 per month given to over 100 central office personnel.
With the exception of these raises, all of these serious problems are now being addressed."
The Fort Worth school board plans to vote on whether to censure trustee Ann Sutherland at a meeting on Tuesday.
According to the agenda, the nine-member board is to vote on a resolution censuring Sutherland, who has been on the board since 2010 and represents district 6.
School board president Judy Needham said she placed the matter on the agenda at the request of other board members but declined to say what is prompting the vote.
Sutherland said she did not know what was behind the Tuesday vote.
Sutherland is known as an outspoken trustee who was also a vocal critic of former superintendent Melody Johnson. She often comments on education topics on her website and education blog.