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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Q&A: Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent Scribner

Kent Scribner is adjusting to life in Fort Worth.

The newly minted superintendent of the Fort Worth Independent School District used to work as superintendent of Phoenix Union High School District in Arizona. Now leading a new school district in a new city, Scribner says he hopes to bring a business focus to Fort Worth schools.

Scribner was hired as superintendent in September and began work October. Fort Worth Business caught up with Scribner to discuss his views on education and business and his goals for the district.

How are your first few months as superintendent going so far?

These first few months have been a whirlwind but also a very productive time. While days are packed with wall-to-wall meetings, some of the best moments have been interacting with our students, teachers and parents. They are our clients, our primary customers. I promised to hit the ground listening. This has been time well spent because I have had the chance to learn the hopes, dreams and expectations of this community and begin the work of formulating a mature strategic plan that reflects the shared vision and the culture of Fort Worth.

What’s a typical day like for you? Would you mind sharing with us a short walkthrough of your day?

My day really begins the night before when I review the next day’s calendar. Shortly after the 5 a.m. alarm, I’m out the door for a walk to the downtown “Y” for a workout – and lately, by the way, that has been a colder walk than I am used to. Before I head to the office, I either deliver my daughter to her bus stop or drive her over to Trimble Tech High School. Again, meeting with our internal and external stakeholders is essential. Still, it is crucial that some portion of my day be spent in schools. I learn a great deal by talking with teachers, who are those closest to the learning process. Great ideas bubble up from classrooms, and I want to be there to listen and support those who are doing the work. Daily I have discussions with board members as we review our core values and refine our strategic objectives. Of course, emails, text messages and social media are all part of today’s world. I enjoy the convenience of technology and being able to take care of business on the go. The day often doesn’t end until well into the evening. There might be Board of Education meetings, dinner meetings, community forums and even school sporting events. Every day I learn something new about Fort Worth and I’m really enjoying it.

You were the superintendent of Phoenix Union High School District in Arizona before coming to Fort Worth. What are some of the challenges that come with transitioning to a new school district?

School districts, like any organization, are made up of people. People are the engines that make districts function. So, learning who is in what position is important. I told the Fort Worth business community that my job is to determine if the right people are in the right seats on the bus. In doing so, I want our employees to know that they are as much a leader as I am. Leadership is not just a job. It is not just a position. Leadership is a relationship with those whom we encounter every day. The Fort Worth ISD is a good school district that can become great. The keys to making it a great school district are for everyone to share the vision, embrace a welcoming culture, track our growth through data and to support our students, teachers and parents as full partners in the education process.

Back in October, you mentioned that you wanted to see the school district connect with Fort Worth businesses to help better prepare students for the workforce. In your first few months as superintendent, what are some steps the school district is taking in order to accomplish this goal?

This has been a big part of my orientation to the Fort Worth ISD. We have many great business partners who are actively involved with many of our campuses. Other businesses are ready to step up to the plate and are eager to become involved in the education process. Fort Worth is a vibrant, growing business market. Our Gold Seal Schools and Programs of Choice provide the opportunity for our students to pick a field of study and have jobs waiting for them in this community. Going forward, we want to make those Gold Seal programs dynamic in that they are responding to market trends and the changing job situation. We need to be training students for jobs that don’t even exist yet. We must be innovative to put Fort Worth students into Fort Worth jobs.

From the business side, what are some ways businesses can get involved with schools?

Our Department of Community and Strategic Partnerships stands ready to match companies with schools based on student needs. Education and the economy are inextricably linked, and this community will not be successful if our schools and our students are not embraced as the keys to the future. A school may have more than one partner, and any size business or organization can make a difference.

Why is it important that businesses and schools work together?

We are preparing Fort Worth students for Fort Worth jobs. Our students must contribute to this community and this economy. We have to have an established cohesive relationship with all our partners to provide outcomes so that we can take success to scale. We don’t want to have just a few schools doing well, but we need to scale our efforts so that all schools are on an upward trajectory and are experiencing growth. Our students are only in school for a relatively short time, and we need to have meaningful partnerships with the community in order to augment their education.

What other goals do you hope to accomplish by the end of the year?

The Fort Worth ISD is poised to be one of the premier urban school districts in the country. The Fort Worth ISD has to be a great school district to match the vibrant, dynamic and expanding growth of the North Texas area. Moving the district forward must be the focus of our efforts. We must push resources out of the central office and into our campuses to support our teachers. We cannot move this organization forward if we are not supporting our teachers and those teachers feel they are the center of all that we do. Those who work closest to the challenges often have the best solutions and we have to create a system of listening to and supporting our instructional staff. I think we are perfectly poised to move from a traditional organization to a transformational organization.

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