Non Renewal of NISD Superintendent's Contract
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REQUEST FOR NON-RENEWAL OF THE CONTRACT FOR THE SUPERINTENDENT OF NACOGDOCHES INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT
To: Nacogdoches ISD Board of Trustees
We, the undersigned parents of children who are attending or have attended Nacogdoches ISD, and community members who share similar concerns, have composed this letter to express our dissatisfaction with the current superintendent, Sandra Dowdy. We ask you not to renew the superintendent contract between Nacogdoches ISD and Sandra Dowdy and to begin the search for a new superintendent immediately.
It is difficult to compose a single list that encompasses the concerns of hundreds of families in our community. Rather than list individual complaints, we sourced verifiable reports to create the following snapshot of the way our district is portrayed in state reports, in local news media and on social media.
- According to TEA reports, Nacogdoches ISD has the highest teacher turnover rate in Nacogdoches County. With two improvement required schools, we can't afford to lose more teachers. Mrs. Dowdy's failure to respect and develop the expertise of the educational professionals in the district, has led to more than 30% turnover district-wide. Forty-two employees left Nacogdoches High School last year, and roughly half of the Carpenter campus teachers resigned. We are concerned that another mass exodus will occur at the end of this school year.
- TEA records indicate Nacogdoches ISD has been under investigation, oversight, in need of substantial intervention, or in need of intervention in the area of special education services since 2012. The director of Student Support Services left in 12/16 and the position is currently supervised by a consultant. Robert Stevens, who was hired by Mrs. Dowdy in spring 2017, stayed fewer than six months. A consultant who was hired to advise Mr. Stevens has been running the department since his resignation. Creating stability, starting from the top down in this position is critical to the success of our students in special education - 504 students according to 2016-17 TEA reports, 7.9% of the entire student population.
- Teachers have been instructed to “scale” or “curve” up benchmark scores, making it difficult to measure true student progress. Parents have not been informed of these grade changing measures. Mrs. Dowdy admitted to this practice during the December 2017 board meeting.
- Administrator salaries are on the rise. One District Support Center employee was gifted a pay raise of nearly $30,000 - a 31% increase between the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school year.
- The administrator to teacher ratio for Nacogdoches ISD continues to grow. For example, Nacogdoches High School now has 12 principals - a 100% increase in staff compared to 2016-17.
- In November and December, waivers requesting to crowd Raguet and Nettie Marshall Elementary classrooms beyond the legal limit were submitted to TEA.
- Mrs. Dowdy’s leadership shortcomings are demonstrated through poor planning and communication. Waivers were submitted to the TEA throughout the 2016-17 school year to close campuses in addition to published teacher workdays and school holidays. Local news media covered the confusion over students backpacks being confiscated the last week of the 2016-17 school year at Nacogdoches High School. School start times were changed for the 2017-18 school year without any public input or announcement. Local television stations carried news about the "chaos" created by late changes to mid-term exemption policies during exam week (staff were alerted at 11 p.m. the night before the changes went into effect). This affected hundreds of families. The schedule at NHS has changed three times this school year with little explanation and considerable confusion for staff and students.
- The removal of Principal Bradley Durham from Nettie Marshall in December was done without explanation or announcement. News coverage has shown the consternation of many parents of children on that campus who have taken concerns to social media and the school board. According to KTRE-TV, Mr. Durham has served the district for 12 years.
- NISD recently saw the exit of Carpenter Principal Jackie Briggs-Vaughn. Dr. Briggs-Vaughn's actions in May 2017 led to an investigation of Nacogdoches ISD by the Office for Civil Rights. The outcome of this investigation is unknown. Mrs. Dowdy hired Dr. Briggs-Vaughn in April 2017 and told KTRE-TV “She has a proven track record in public education and will lead the new campus.”
- Mrs. Dowdy has been at the center of high profile controversies with people and programs at Nacogdoches ISD, including the resignation of Head Basketball Coach Gary Hall who left the district at the end of 2016-2017, and investigations into celebrated Band Director Glynn Wells and the Band Booster organization. Mrs. Dowdy also approved the expenses to hire a DJ to perform high school pep rallies. News media covered the dissatisfaction of parents and students who expressed concern about explicit lyrics and the decision to replace performances traditionally reserved for the band with the services of a hired DJ. Parents also shared their concerns with the school board during public comment.
- Nacogdoches ISD has accrued consulting fees that appear exorbitant when compared to similar sized schools. Some consultants hired by Nacogdoches ISD are personal friends of Mrs. Dowdy, one has even stayed in the superintendent's private home when working in Nacogdoches. How can Mrs. Dowdy objectively supervise her house guests?
- Legal fees continue to be on the rise for Nacogdoches ISD. According to district check registers, the cost of legal spending between 2013-2014 and 2016-2017 increased 191%. Spending this fiscal year is on track to be the highest in recent years, with checks for legal services written from 7/1/17-11/30/17 totaling more than $130,000.
- The community, including teachers, parents and even students, has made concerns known to this administration with little response. During public comment at school board meetings Mrs. Dowdy has been observed reading materials, texting, laughing, and having sidebar conversations instead of listening to the concerns of citizens, parents, students and employees.
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