WHERE DOES ASHLEY STAND ON THE ISSUES?
School Board members have talked about being focused on improving student achievement for as long as School Boards have existed. But when the behaviors of school boards are put under a microscope it becomes clear that talking is all they do in most cases. Ashley Paz has been an outspoken advocate for outcomes focused governance, and has become a national leader in this area because she believes that if a governing body states that they want to see improved student achievement, then their actions need to be overwhelmingly directed at executing that belief. She has led this work by unapologetically demanding that the data reviewed by the School Board be tied directly to student achievement outcome goals, and when that data shows unacceptable progress then accountability conversations must occur. This is the most important work that a school board does, and Ashley has demanded fidelity from our School Board in this area time and again.
As the Executive Director of a non-profit that has been around for over 95 years, Ashley Paz understands the important role that stability plays in realizing sustainable growth. Ashley was instrumental in creating a welcoming environment for Dr. Kent Paredes Scribner when he took the helm as Superintendent of FWISD in 2015. Ashley knows as an executive the importance of letting the CEO develop the strategy, and supporting them as they implement strategic initiatives to improve student achievement. She also understands that if there are not accountability systems in place then things can destabilize rapidly. Leadership starts at the top, and that is why Ashley has been outspoken about board ethics and transparency. After-all, when the board is focused on working with and supporting the Superintendent over petty politics and infighting, then they can have thoughtful dialogue about student outcomes and district performance. When this example is set by the board, then it will resonate throughout FWISD.
There are a lot of opinions about what works and what doesn't in public education, but there is one fact that has been proven through a broad body of research. When kids have access to highly qualified teachers who believe that they can learn despite their starting point they make more progress in an academic year. It is Ashley's belief that there is no job more difficult in America than that of an educator in an urban school district where resources are limited and bureaucracies are plentiful. One of Ashley's greatest achievements in her time as a trustee is establishing a performance metric that measures the number of experienced teachers in underserved schools. And the results from this initiative speak for themselves.
Fort Worth ISD is home to some of the region's most beautiful historic school sites. In all, the district has over 130 individual campuses and several more administrative and support sites. The average age of these buildings is over 50 years! As you can imagine, the financial obligation associated with maintaining these facilities can be daunting for districts like FWISD. Everyone wants to see resources go into the classroom to improve student achievement. This means that the district must ask local taxpayers to fund school facility improvements through their property taxes, which are rising every year. Facility funding is complex, and Ashley understands this better than anyone else on the board as she is responsible for maintaining nearly $8 million worth of historic property in the heart of Fort Worth. In 2016 the district established a Facilities Master Planning Committee with the goal of aligning construction plan with the instructional strategy to maximize the impact of your tax dollars.
When Ashley first ran for the school board she heard a lot of complaining about how parent and community engagement was at an all time low. That is why part of her platform at the time was to get a PTA established in every District 9 school. Over time her perspective has evolved around community engagement. Elected leaders can not simply expect for the community to come to them. Ashley believes that it is her responsibility as a steward of the community's trust to actively engage stakeholders in issues, educate them on their rights, and empower them to be involved advocates for their children and their schools. Ashley is thoughtful in seeking out partnerships with parents and community stakeholders in all areas of FWISD. As a founder of the district's Racial Equity Committee she ensured that community voice was the most powerful voice on this body. And moving forward Ashley has committed to building upon this work because our collective voice is more powerful than we each are as individuals.
Building Racial Equity
In 2014 Ashley was appointed to represent Fort Worth on President Obama's My Brother's Keeper Task Force where she engaged with the nation's thought leaders on strategies to address systemic barriers to success for children and communities of color. This work is a major point of pride for Mrs. Paz as she sees this as the predominant civil rights issue of this generation. Access to education is a key predicting factor for the longevity and sustainability of communities. School board members should not have to fight for and providing equitable funding, access to quality educators, and state of the art facilities. These considerations should be non-negotiable regardless to a child's zip code. Furthermore, Ashley understands that there are constructs within the education system that create disparities for children of color, and has made it her personal charge to dismantle these structures and replace them with systems of opportunity.