Until Tuesday, beloved Sunset High School Principal Anthony Tovar intended to resign at the end of this school year, a development seized by critics of Dallas ISD who say so-called reforms are driving away top talent. But then Tovar rescinded, saying he would stay on as principal. All was well.
And then, last night at Sunset, while addressing an audience of parents, teachers and DISD alumni at a PTA rally supporting him, Tovar shocked the crowd by announcing that he is in fact retiring.
Tovar was one of more than 60 principals placed on "growth plans" by DISD, a controversial program expected to result in many of them being fired. Though he was on a DISD growth plan, Tovar told the Observer after the rally that he wasn't being forced out of his position, and no one told him "you're gone, you're out." He declined to elaborate on his change of heart.
When he spoke to the audience, Tovar talked about his three decades spent in DISD, four if you count his time as a student. He shared a story about the time his guidance counselor told him that white people were leaving Dallas for the suburbs, and many people would be looking to hire someone like him to help build houses.
He spoke at length about his love of teaching before saying that he had spoken with friends and family before deciding to "go with the original plan to retire." Many people in the audience gasped. Tovar ended his speech saying, "I hope we made a difference here," his voice cracking.
After Tovar addressed the audience, Ray de los Santos of LULAC moderated a question and answer session with DISD Trustee Eric Cowan, Sunset Feeder Pattern Executive Director Desiree Arias, Assistant Superintendent Rafael Dominguez and Chief of School Leadership Sylvia Reyna. The questions and comments echoed oft-mention frustration with DISD policy and procedure. Among the concerns is the move away from block scheduling for comprehensive high schools, a dearth of bilingual teachers, and the transparency of the research DISD uses to make policy decisions.
As the evening continued people began shouting directly at the panel.
"You want to talk about bonuses," said one man, "give the money to the teachers where it belongs."
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One teacher said that because of the new standards and requirements she cried more in this past year than in her previous three of teaching. She said that Tovar was the only person who gave any encouragement to the teachers.
"He has backed us and supported us more than anyone," she said.
"This school doesn't need to change anymore than it has in the last six years," said retired teacher Bill Betzen. "It needs to keep doing what it's doing."
Betzen also challenged the panel to address a list of concerns presented by the PTA. The PTA listed in a slideshow issues like inconsistent performance reviews in different feeder patterns, and problems with event registration, including Sunset's prom. Betzen asked if DISD could take all of the material they listed and answer each issue directly. Arias said they could have that done by the next PTA meeting on May 7.