Fort Worth

Controversy Disrupts Fort Worth Charter School

Some families are questioning whether their students will return to Fort Worth’s Academy of the Fine Arts next year amid calls for the president and CEO to resign after the principal’s abrupt departure.

The performing arts school, home to the Texas Boys Choir and consistently named one of the top schools in the state, held two public forums this week to allow parents and students to address concerns.

Those came after about 100 students began protests wearing all black to school calling for more transparency from leadership.

Nina Burrows' ninth grade daughter is one of them. Burrows calls it an important but tough lesson in civil disobedience as her daughter has accepted lunch detentions for her decision to forgo the dress code to help send a statement.

“She’s upset and she’s worried about is her school going to be there next year. Is it going to be the same place?” said Burrows.

Burrows and her daughter were both at Monday’s meeting. They worry if change doesn’t take place, the teachers they love may leave.

“It’s a school about creative expression and yet the teachers don’t feel like they’re safe to express themselves without fear of losing their job,” said Burrows.

They’re among several now asking for President and CEO Clint Riley to resign. Riley, however, said he has no plans to step down.

“I don’t take that personally. I think that’s more an expression of frustration. Of them saying we want you to hear us and so I’m looking at that as an opportunity for growth for all of us to just work together,” said Riley.

While Riley wouldn’t discuss the resignation of the principal many said was forced, he said he believes current concerns all boil down to change and the difficulties it brings.

Riley began holding meetings this week with students to open a new line of communication and clear up some misinformation he says has been floating around.

“Where there’s concerns about transparency that’s easy to fix. We can certainly putting more systems in place to begin sharing more information, and so we’re working on that,” said Riley.

In addition to Riley’s resignation or termination, both parents and teachers have expressed a need for more board members on a board of directors that’s recently dwindled from 10 members to six. They’d also like to see the principal they just lost reinstated in his old role or in a new one as a superintendent, which the school doesn’t currently have.

Board members who were present at this week’s meeting wouldn’t say what changes if any will be made, but they said they’re taking everything that’s been said into consideration.

"I think we're going to meet and confer and talk about those steps that will take the school to even greater heights and make it the best it can be,” said Director Dan Bates.

Teachers Keith Applewhite and Darlene Cryer said they know of several teachers weighing their options when it comes to next school year. They said many are waiting to see if Riley goes before deciding to stay. 

“There’s a lot of anxiety in the hallways. There’s a lot of tension, secrecy. You know, people not knowing who’s safe. Who can we talk to about this?” said Applewhite.

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