Why is Sunset High School Principal Anthony Tovar Leaving? [Updated]

AnthonyTovarSunset.jpg
Update on April 16: The Morning News reports that Tovar will not, in fact, be resigning. No reason given yet for the change of heart.

Original post: What's happened at Sunset High School over the last seven years has been, if not quite a miracle, than at least proof that a struggling inner city school with a highly impoverished, almost entirely minority student body can be turned around. Dropout rates have gone down, graduation rates up. More students are engaged and more parents are involved in their kids' education. Scores on the all-important TAKS test have skyrocketed. In 2007, 38 percent of students passed all four subjects. In 2012, that number was 71 percent.

Leading the renaissance is Anthony Tovar, an affable and energetic 57-year-old in his seventh year as Sunset's principal. We penned a glowing profile of Tovar back in 2009 that gives a good idea of how he's been so successful.

He's a hands-on leader who prefers walking the halls and checking in on classrooms to holing himself up in his office. He shares an easy rapport with students and staff. He's wise enough to surround himself with talented deputies and teachers. He has a knack for motivation that comes from his decades as a DISD baseball coach.

In other words, he's the prototype of an effective inner city principal, exactly the type of leader Superintendent Mike Miles is looking to bring in. Instead, Tovar's on his way out.

He's not being forced out, as is supposedly happening to Marian Willard at Madison and a few dozen of her peers. It seems he's just become fed up with how clumsily Miles' reforms are being implemented.

He hinted at some of his frustrations at a meeting with parents and trustee Eric Cowan. We weren't there, but about 50 parents and community members were, and none of them want him to go.

"He was adamant Monday night that he really wanted to stay," says Sunset Alumni Association President Doris Murphy, who attended the meeting. He didn't go into detail about why he decided to leave, but it's something of an open secret in the Sunset community: He's being micromanaged to death.

As a small but telling example, Murphy cites the effort to get the district to approve Sunset's prom. In the past, it's been a simple process, with plans given a quick once over and OK'd by DISD headquarters. This year, the contract was sent back by the legal department a dozen times for revisions. Even then, the prom still wasn't green-lighted until earlier this week, a couple of weeks before the event was scheduled to take place. Another annual tradition, an evening trip to the ice skating rink at a nearby mall, never received approval.

Commenting on a Change.org petition calling for Tovar to remain at Sunset, Assistant Principal Harold Hinsley suggests the problems go deeper.

"There is no reason for him to be going through this anguish with a school like Sunset," he writes. "Why take a performing, successful school and leader, remove the leader and punish a man for doing his job and providing stability to a school that was on the verge of failure before he came?"

As Tovar pointed out Monday, he's not being removed. But when well-intentioned reforms are done in such a hasty and slipshod manner that it makes talented employees miserable, is there much of a difference?


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25 comments
Winn
Winn

I've worked with Tony Tovar for years super nice guy cares about the students

jhoffman2760
jhoffman2760

Micro-managing has RUN a MUCK with F. Mike Miles this year...Tony Tovar is one of the REALLY GOOD GUYS...DISD grad, Samuell Spartan for Life...he's in it for ALL the right reasons....this is ASHAME!!

Bisonette
Bisonette

Sunset's campus budget has been far below other HS in DISD.  Always lowest per student spend, save this year when WTW got that honor.  Tovar has done more with less than any Principal in the district. I understood that he had been on a growth plan earlier in the year, but maybe not.  He has reformed Sunset. He did it with no money, few supplies and a lot of heart. The biggest thing Eric Cowan has done for Sunset is put a picture of our beloved building on his Facebook landing page. His opponent maybe inexperienced in the ways of DISD but that is a plus.  If Tovar goes, Eric should lead the way.  May 11 comes before June 11. 

BytheWay
BytheWay

Sunset has also been underfunded by $2,000 a student compared to other high schools and the magnets.

The PTA needs to alert TEA that Dallas ISD's system of "comparability" for Title I is a sham. Alan King may present a budget to the board where spending looks comparable, but the Title I schools are never staffed and spending is far below the magnets.

This is against federal law and could make Dallas lose its title I money.

Veteran teachers at Booker T. only make up about $500 a student of the difference, not over $2500 a student in taxpayer funds.

Parents need to tell Miles their principal has accomplished wonders without the legally required comparable funding. Sunset has always been understaffed.

bbetzen
bbetzen

Sunset is one of the largest high schools in Dallas ISD, with an enrollment near 2,300. As of last week Sunset had 579 enrolled in the 9th grade and 526 in the 12th grade! When Mr. Tovar started it was like most urban schools that size with 834 in the 9th grade and 346 in the 12th grade. The 2006 graduation rate was 33%!  Mr. Tovar has worked a powerful miracle and has saved the tax payers of Dallas millions and millions of dollars! Under his leadership Sunset is heading for a graduation class that will represent over 80% of the original full 9th grade enrollment!! He is really on his way to achieving a 90% graduation rate for Sunset before any other comprehensive high schools gets near that achievement!  

This is a poverty stricken inner city school!  Yes, it still has improvements that are needed and Mr. Tovar will talk about them with anyone. With Mr. Tovar we are working on them faster than any other leader has ever done in the history of DISD!  

DISD must respect the reality found in the data, and respect Mr. Tovar, and be thankful for his genius and his authentic concern for our students!  He was one of them once upon a time.

bbetzen
bbetzen

The reasons for the mistreatment of Sunset by DISD central office cannot yet be identified.

After the meeting staff started an online petition to support Mr. Tovar and ask he reconsider his decision: http://www.change.org/petitions/dallas-isd-support-encourage-mr-anthony-tovar-to-remain-principal-at-sunset . Please join us and sign the petition to push the numbers well beyond the over 500 signatures now present.

Please clear your calendar for a rally planned for Thursday, 4-18-13, at 6:00 PM at Sunset for alumni, students, staff, and families to show support for Sunset and Mr. Tovar.

bbetzen
bbetzen

Monday evening, 4-8-13, I attended one of the most painful meetings I have attended in years. It verified tragic rumors that were circulating Sunset High School.

Mr. Tony Tovar, the Sunset Principal since July 2006 announced he had submitted his resignation out of frustration for the way DISD administration was micromanaging Sunset. Frustrations from cancelled skating parties to delayed prom approvals were just the tip of the iceberg as to the specialized mistreatment Sunset was being selected out for.

Where there performance problems at Sunset? Absolutely not! There were no such issues, especially compared to the other 22 comprehensive high schools in DISD. The progress of the past 6 years has continued, and is projected into the future, placing Sunset in the wonderful place of being one of the most improved comprehensive high schools in all of DISD! Then what is happening?

Here is one chart documenting the monumental progress at Sunset: http://schoolarchiveproject.blogspot.com/2013/04/sunset-evidence-of-disd-chaos.html 

NotThisOne
NotThisOne

Tovar came to a campus that had a history of grade and attendance fraud, a revolving door of crooks who were promoted into assistant superintendents (Marquez, Lozano and spouse) and department heads who fully cooperated in putting kids out into the streets or just ignoring failure.

Tovar cleaned house and did what very few administrators who are successful are willing to do. He didn't ask for a promotion. He did what most principals did decades ago. He found a campus, cleaned it up, and stayed there to ensure steady leadership.

The previous sleazebags like Marquez and Lozano and team used the school as a stepping stone and left it highly unstable and low performing.

So Miles and the former Pcard thieve ED are harassing Tovar?

Miles is as crooked as Marquez---a lowlife politician looking for the big time while his crooked sister holds down the fort at his consulting firm.

The PTA and the NOC community need to rise up in revolt over this.

Cowardly Cowan won't lift a finger unless he is forced to do so. The Dallas Morning News wants to give Miles supreme power to fire any principal at any time. For starters, vote Cowan out of office.

If he is still there, pressure him to grow a pair and actually do something about his schools. He will have to be forced into action. he wants the status of trustee but doesn't want to do anything.

Tovarfan
Tovarfan

Principals have been placed on growth plans because district staff know it's a huge bargaining chip. You have to disclose if you are non-renewed when applying for future jobs. It's something you avoid at all costs.

Place large numbers of administrators on growth plans, and watch them resign or retire to avoid the non-renewal. It's a quicker, cleaner way to get rid of people. No doubt there are some ineffective leaders in DISD, but Anthony Tovar is not one of them. He has led his campus to six straight years of growth while fighting cancer these past three years. He has also groomed two administrators into their own successful principalships.

sisterfunkhaus
sisterfunkhaus

This makes me ill. My husband works at Sunset and Tovar is a gift. That school is a different place than it was several years back. The teachers at the school are way better than at most of the schools in DISD as well. The kids are wonderful too. I resent Miles and Arias for treating him as though he doesn't know what he is doing. They could take a lesson from Tovar. Miles is digging his own grave by chasing out excellent principals like Tovar and excellent teachers who don't want to suffer through the micromanaging. All DISD is going to be left with are staff members who can't secure jobs anywhere else and are desperate. Miles is oblivious to the fact that DISD is often a last resort stop for teachers, and now, it's only going to be worse because no one in north Texas wants to work for him. What is wrong with him and his lackies? DISD is already the worst district to work for. How does Miles ever expect to lure in real talent to turn the district around when he can't keep the talent he has?

sunsetrules
sunsetrules

Numbers don't lie.  He needs to stay.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

If anything I think Mr Tovar can read the message being sent his direction ...Leave before  we give you a reason to regret staying past your time to go .

A lot of what we see happening in our schools  is  not for today or even the future the students of the DISD but will look very good on The superintendents Resume down the road .

How can  Sunset show improvement using  the MILES plan if Sunset was doing nicely ( in a manner of speaking ) already ?


Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

This is a major loss for the entire Oak Cliff community.

It's a shame that, as usual, our BOT can't tell the difference between reform and a naked power grab. 

Tovar had some detractors, but the bottom line is Sunset has been starved of resources and overcrowded for years, yet still succeeded in improving because he did his best to do things the right way, not the DISD way and it's finally catching up with him.

concernedcitizen
concernedcitizen

I had a total of 9 principals during my time in DISD, and he was by far the best. Although I'm out of the district now, I will never forget how much he supported his teachers and students. As long as you were doing what you were supposed to do in your classroom with your students, he was a joy to have as a boss. 

Being a principal of an inner city high school is a an extremely difficult job. How many of the Executive Directors have spent several years as principals of academically acceptable or higher comprehensive inner city high schools? Some may have been great principals at elementary or even middle schools, but high school is a whole different ball game.  I understand principals are now given one year to perform. Will some DISD high schools have new principals every year? What about the EDs? How many years are they given? 

Tovar_Supporter
Tovar_Supporter

Eric Coward, er... Cowan, still refuses to stand up for the teachers and principals in his district. We need to vote him out.

DISDTeacher
DISDTeacher

Why is he leaving?  Same reason everyone else is: the working conditions in DISD.  None of the good people leaving DISD is asking for more money or special treatment.

Only Mike Miles wants a bonus on top of his excessive salary and a special exemption from getting certified as a Supe in Texas like everyone else is required to do.


ptmoore2012
ptmoore2012

Sorry. Why didn't they make this guy the superintendent?

Rumpunch1
Rumpunch1

@DISDTeacher Miles will respond just like he did when teachers left at Townview by saying that they needed to leave. 

animas
animas

Evidentally he has not met the qualifications, specifically:  creating chaos in a school district in an adjacent state, promoting useless educational devices for profit, placing cronies on the  district payroll at tax payer expense, buying or moving personal home furnishings at district taxpayer expense, creating a cult of personality.  Also he seems "likeable" which is a negative for DISD superitendent consideration.

DISDTeacher
DISDTeacher

@Rumpunch1 @DISDTeacher If comprehensive teachers get all the blame for the low performance at the comprehensives, then the magnet teachers should get all the credit for the success at the magnets, right?  So Miles should be bending over backwards to keep the effective, outstanding magnet teachers, right?  Because all he claims to want is effective teachers, right?

Miles wants to have it both ways.  And I completely agree that he'll shrug off Tovar's resignation like he did the Townview teachers.  


Rumpunch1
Rumpunch1

@animas You forgot to mention, it was a Black superintendents turn.  By my count, a latino is up next.

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