Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Dr. Kent Scribner reflected Wednesday on challenges endured by schools during the pandemic, as well as changes he says have been made for the better.
“The pandemic has been a wake-up call. We certainly do not want to go back to the way things have always been,” Scribner said.
Scribner was a featured panelist at the annual State of Education luncheon Wednesday hosted by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. He was joined by other education and business leaders discussing the role of education and the changing needs of businesses and the workforce.
“The pandemic was a crisis that we cannot let go to waste. It disrupted our system. It allowed us to reflect. It allowed us to understand the importance of an extended school day, extended school year, of technology,” he said. “We also recognize that with the additional dollars that we have all received to recover from the pandemic, that those need to go to the students in the greatest need. The pandemic, if anything … it shed light on the disparities that exist in our community.”
Pre-pandemic, Scribner said computer devices such as laptops and Chromebooks were provided to all students between 6th and 12th grades, but they were not provided to the district’s youngest’s learners.
“As a result of this community’s investment in our students, now we have a tablet for our youngest learners … a Chromebook, laptop for all students Pre-K through 12,” he said. “We’ve constructed four Wi-Fi towers in our most needy ZIP codes, Stop Six, Morningside, Rosemont. We have eight more ZIP codes that will be provided Wi-Fi towers in December and January, provided 4,000 modems. Not only for students so they can do their work, but for parents."
Dr. Harrison Keller, the commissioner of higher education in Texas, was also part of the discussion on the current and future workforce.
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“So, how do we invest this money strategically so that we can enhance quality and better attune to and align with our current emerging workforce needs, which have changed much faster than anybody expected?” Keller asked.
Scribner said the district is focused on preparing students for college and careers.
“We believe that here in Fort Worth, we have a high concentration of high demand, high wage jobs for high school students. We know four out of five of the most in-demand jobs require something more than high school but something less than a four-year college,” he said. “So, we really want to help our students to break that cycle of poverty and get a family-sustaining wage right out of high school through our partnerships with business.”
The panel was moderated by Daniel Pullin, the John V. Roach Dean of the Neeley School of Business at TCU.