School board grapples with institutional disparities in FWISD

The Fort Worth Independent School District board members are trying to create a culture that addresses institutional disparity, but they are still struggling with how that plays out in board policy.

At their Feb. 14 board meeting, members approved of the first reading of the racial-ethnic and equity policy. The policy focuses on improving district practices in order to ensure equity in education.

But that came after some board members objected to spending nearly $1 million for athletic equipment and buildings for Benbrook Middle-High School, while other schools are lacking educational necessities.

The agenda items included purchasing and installing batting cages as well as shot put and discus rings at Benbrook Middle-High School. They also included locker room renovations, the building of restrooms, storage house and concession stands. According to the agenda, all reimbursement of expenditures will come from future bond money.

“The athletic facilities and equipment would bring Benbrook Middle-High up to high school status,” said Norman Robbins, the board secretary for District 7, which includes Benbrook Middle-High.

Christene Moss, the board trustee for District 3 consisting of schools on the east side, said she couldn’t support the items because academic needs had not been met at schools in less fortunate areas.

“We have disparity gaps within this district that are real,” she said. “It is clear now more than it has been in the past.”

She said there is something similar to a “buddy system” when it comes to the board. Some members support certain schools more than others, depending on the area and demographic.

“We have board members that talk about equity,” Moss said. “But it’s not about what you say. It’s about your actions.”

Moss said if the board is truly trying to provide a high-quality education for students, academic equity needs to be a priority. She said the Young Men’s Leadership Academy, another school transitioning into a high school on the east side, does not have the labs and materials they need to be successful.

The school board member mentions that parents and families of YMLA were told that there isn’t enough money to accommodate their needs. However, Benbrook Middle-High did receive the money they requested.

“We talked about the institutional; there it is,” Moss said, in reference to disparities within the district. “And I don’t mind saying it because race plays a major role in this district.”

Both agenda items were passed. Five board members were in favor and three were not in favor.