The Fort Worth ISD (FWISD) Board revealed on January 13 that, after a 50-year career in education, Fort Worth Independent School District Superintendent Kent P. Scribner has announced that he will retire and not seek a contract extension after his existing contract ends in 2024.

Scribner has said that he will remain in his position until the FWISD Board of Directors has had an opportunity to find a suitable replacement. The Board plans to discuss the transition at the upcoming January 18 meeting.

Scribner sent a letter to the Board dated December 16 announcing his retirement and his plans to aid in a smooth and thoughtful transition to a new Superintendent. His existing contract runs through August 2024.

“We appreciate Dr. Scribner’s communication and transparency in sharing his plans,” said Fort Worth ISD Board of Education President Tobi Jackson in a press release. “Among his many accomplishments, we especially applaud his leadership in transforming our secondary schools with collaborative spaces and modern, career-focused classrooms that will benefit students for decades to come. That is an outstanding legacy.” 

Under his leadership, FWISD passed two voter-approved tax bills and generated nearly $2 billion in funds to provide new construction and rehabilitation for the district’s 23 existing campuses. Some of the funds secured under Scribner’s leadership will also be used to construct four new elementary schools. 

Scribner became the superintendent in 2015. Since then, students in FWISD have earned $136 million in merit scholarships, a figure four times higher than under previous leadership. Scribner, who started his education career as a Spanish teacher in Philadelphia, brought a new focus on racial equity and inclusivity, and social-emotional learning to the district through the creation of plans to address historic gaps in education for people of color and low-income students in the district.

Scribner becomes the latest superintendent to step down following significant friction between district-area parents and administrators. FWISD attempted to start the school year requiring students to wear masks, but were forced to change course after numerous complaints from parents and the threat of lawsuits. 

Scribner and FWISD have also taken heat this year for perceived issues with educators teaching critical race theory in school. This theory, which generally refers to Masters-level legal education, has been at the center of discussions about how issues like slavery, race relations, and differences between groups of people are discussed and explained. 

Scribner’s announcement comes right after Dallas ISD (DISD) Superintendent Michael Hinojosa released his plan to depart from his superintendency after nearly 13 years, in which he led the elevation of underperforming schools, guided implementation of a school-turnaround model so successful that it is copied across the state and, championed early-college programs.

Hinojosa will resign by the end of 2022. An official date will be contingent upon consensus for his replacement.

School districts nationwide are dealing with turnover of the leadership as many people have exhausted themselves dealing with the challenges to education brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and societal attitudes relating to race, education, and law enforcement that have brought increased pressure on superintendents to provide leadership.

In Texas alone, the superintendents of Dallas ISD, Richardson ISD, Mesquite ISD, and Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD have now stepped down in recent months. Other large metropolitan areas like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles are also seeing similar turnover. Experts disagree as to whether the pandemic and political climate in the US is a driving factor in the widespread retirement of key educators.

The website, which tracks news and other information about school districts in the state, is currently reporting that there are 54 superintendent vacancies in the state. The site shows nine newly-hired superintendents mostly at small, rural schools.