Fired Principals File TEA Appeal

Diamond Hill-Jarvis High School | Image by FWISD

Two former principals who used to work at Fort Worth ISD have formally appealed their recent firings.

James Garcia, the former principal of Diamond Hill-Jarvis High School, and Katrina Smith, the former principal of Eastern Hills High School, have formally asked the Texas Education Agency (TEA) for a hearing to review their terminations, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Smith, who began work at Fort Worth ISD in 2001, served as a special education department chair and coach before her first principal appointment in 2013. Garcia, on the other hand, started in 1997 as an English teacher and sports coach. He later rose to the position of principal in 2009.

The Fort Worth ISD school board voted to release both principals for unknown reasons during a closed session on September 26. Board member Roxanne Martinez abstained from voting on the terminations, and board member Tobi Jackson abstained solely in the case of Smith.

“The Fort Worth Independent School District cannot speak to specific issues regarding individual employees, and as such cannot address specific actions or inactions of those individuals,” Jessica Becerra, a spokesperson for the district, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram shortly after the firings.

Neither Smith nor Garcia has commented on their dismissals. Still, several community members took to social media to question the school board’s decisions and to call for greater transparency on the part of Fort Worth ISD officials. Several people mentioned the state’s takeover of Houston ISD and suggested that Fort Worth ISD could be next.

Chronic academic underperformance at one of Houston ISD’s campuses triggered a takeover by the state earlier this year, as previously reported by The Dallas Express. The TEA dismissed the district’s locally-elected school board, appointed a new board of managers to oversee the school system, and asked Mike Miles, a former superintendent for Dallas ISD, to take the helm.

According to TEA’s latest accountability reports, Fort Worth ISD has been seriously struggling when it comes to student achievement scores. Only 31% of students scored at grade level on their STAAR exams during the 2021-2022 school year, a worse metric than Dallas ISD’s 41%.

Still, Fort Worth ISD managed to clock a better on-time graduation rate than Dallas ISD, with some 85.7% of its Class of 2022 earning a diploma in four years. Only 81.1% of Dallas ISD’s Class of 2022 graduated in four years.

Now that Garcia and Smith have formally launched the appeal process, TEA protocol mandates that an independent hearing examiner must conduct a review and offer a recommendation within two months. However, the deadline can be extended to a maximum of 45 days upon mutual agreement.

If the hearings are held, they will be held in private.

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