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Joe Ross, a hero for Fort Worth schools

In 2004, just days after he was pulled out of bed and out of retirement to lead the Fort Worth school district out of a construction scandal, Joe Ross clearly stated how he intended to do that.

“I want to do my job the best I can and be open, and I’m going to shoot straight with the public and the board,” Ross told the Star-Telegram. “I want that to be my legacy, that I worked hard, I was involved, and I was honest.”

And that’s what he did. Joe Ross worked hard, he was involved, he was honest, and he helped set things straight for a school district in which they had gone grievously awry.

Federal prosecutors had said a district employee and a contractor had stolen millions of dollars in a kickback scheme tied to a taxpayer-approved construction program. The two later were sent to prison.

Ross, then 67, received a call late one night and was summoned to a school board meeting at which he learned that Superintendent Thomas Tocco would be reassigned to another position because of the scandal.

The board wanted Ross, who had retired after a 29-year career as a district teacher and administrator, to take over. It would be more than a year before his replacement, Melody Johnson, was hired.

Ross, 80, died Sunday after a long fight with cancer. He was a hero for Fort Worth public schools.

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