Fort Worth Independent School District begins the school year today with a key question still unanswered -- who will lead the district into the future?
After Walter Dansby resigned suddenly in June, the school district hired former Deputy Superintendent Dr. Patricia Linares on a six-month contract that lasts through December.
Linares retired four years ago but says she's proud to come back and help the city through this transition.
"It's very exciting. Any time you start up a new school year, it's an exciting time. And it's a time you get to see the children and the excitement on their faces, and the parents wanting to meet their teachers," Linares said.
Fort Worth hopes to have a permanent replacement named by December. The goal is to have the superintendent start in January, but there are no guarantees.
"I think as a new superintendent comes on board, it really depends on their schedule. When will they be able to leave their previous job? When will they be able to move here? What I do know is that the opportunities for our children's education will not change, it will not stop. Our focus is on the school year and making sure the children have all the educational opportunities they deserve," Linares said.
The school district has hired an education firm to lead the search, but Linares said getting input from the community is crucial.
"That will include visiting with the community, with community members and parents, having forums in different areas of the city, to learn what are those characteristics they want to see in a new superintendent," she said.
There will be several town hall meetings with parents and teachers, but nothing has been scheduled yet.
Linares is helping guide the district through several big changes this school year.
There are 600 new Pre-K spots this year. Those students will be in 28 new classes across the district. Hundreds of additional Pre-K spots will open up next academic year, as well.
"To have the children start at Pre-K is critical. We're able to work with the children on their academic success. Reading, math, and sciences. And at the same time it assists the child with their social and emotional growth as well," Linares said.
Benbrook is expanding this year to a middle-high school as it adds 9th grade classes. Benbrook next year will expand to include the 10th grade.
The new World Languages Institute also opens its doors, to teach 6th and 7th graders in dual-language classrooms.