Summer Camp: Fort Worth Independent School District

Learn more about Sarah Gibbons.
Sarah Gibbons
Senior Manager, Communications
George W. Bush Institute

Our School Leadership team is working hand-in-hand with four school districts across the country to help them find, support, and retain effective principals. This summer, the team made visits to all four school districts to check in on their progress. Second stop: Fort Worth Independent School District.

After a productive visit at Austin Independent School District, our School Leadership Initiative team traveled to “Cowtown” to meet with leaders of Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD). As one of the four districts participating in our School Leadership Initiative aimed to help districts find, support, and retain effective principals, FWISD leaders were excited to share their progress from the first six months of the program. The results: very positive.

“Principals are feeling empowered,” said Karen Molinar, Chief of Policy and Planning at FWISD. “If they are the most important group in our district, then they should be the most empowered group in our district as well.”

In just six months, district leaders shared how they improved the talent selection process, made a significant change to a long standing process to hiring principals, and updated the district’s vision statement to highlight the importance of principals.

“I’ve noticed more of an alignment of how things get done with leadership,” said Carla Coscia, a FWISD principal.

FWISD has restructured meetings and decision-making processes to ensure principal voices are heard. Although there is more work to be done, the district has been able to witness how small changes have a big impact.

“We have really taken a shift from a central office focus to a campus focus with the principals being that main lever for change,” said Molinar. “Our principal meetings look different now. Some of our committees look totally different. We have principals giving us input, but then making decisions alongside of a central district division.”

Staff, parents, and teachers have also expressed their excitement that FWISD is placing an importance in cultivating quality school leadership. For example, after sharing an article published in the Fort Worth Star Telegram about the district’s participation in the George W. Bush Institute’s School Leadership Initiative on Facebook, the post received thousands of likes and several positive comments.

While the community support from Fort Worth stakeholders is a resource of encouragement, the district also shared that support from the School Leadership Initiative community is empowering and informative.

“I have become a better principal just hearing and seeing the different ways that the other districts have done things,” said Coscia. “That was one of my favorite parts–when we went to Dallas. You learn from others, you see others, and you learn the good and the bad.”

As fall approaches, we are excited to see FWISD continue implementing new strategies, sharing their best practices with us and other school districts, and working toward their goals.