Scott Ball / Rivard Report
One by one, four new South San Antonio Independent School District trustees on Monday night raised their right hand and swore to uphold the duties of their new office. District officials swapped out plates bearing former trustees' names, signaling the beginning of new district governance with many fresh faces.
Four of the seven trustees are newcomers, selected in November's election that ousted three incumbents. All three of those unseated supported the proposition to increase South San's tax rate. Like the trustees, the tax rate increase was defeated at the polls.
On Monday, new trustees Mandy Martinez (D1), Homer Flores (D3), Shirley Ibarra Peña (D4), and Gilbert Rodriguez (D6) were sworn in and took their seats on the dais.
Following the oaths of office, trustees held elections for new board officers – both the president and vice president left the board with the expiration of their terms. In the new board's first vote, trustees split 4-3 to elect longtime trustee Connie Prado (D5) as the board's new president.
Four trustees, including Prado, Flores, Ibarra Peña, and Rodriguez, voted in favor of Prado's nomination, while the other three – Martinez and incumbents Louis Ybarra Jr. and Elda Flores – abstained.
The new board president has served as a South San trustee for roughly two decades and announced Monday she does not plan to run for re-election when her term expires in two years.
Prado was last elected board president in 2014, before the Texas Education Agency appointed a state conservator to oversee financial management and board governance. In January, the state removed the conservator, citing progress in South San.
Prado told the Rivard Report she hopes to maintain this progress by following the same governance structure the previous board used.
"I think Lone Star Governance is working very well," Prado said, referring to the board governance system that requires trustees to track time and progress on goals. "We've done a lot. We've progressed from the past five, six years. We have a really good board that works well together, and I hope to see that continue and move forward."
She told trustees and meeting attendees Monday night that the board is up against some challenges, including the district's D letter grade from the TEA and potential financial issues, but she hopes the board and Superintendent Alexandro Flores will be able to work as a cohesive team.
"We are going to face some challenges ... we don't know yet, but I think the board sitting here today stands ready to work with the superintendent," Prado said. "I am hoping that the superintendent is also ready to work with the board, with all seven of us."
Outgoing trustees emphasized what they see as a need to continue following the same method of governing the district, through the Lone Star Governance framework that prioritizes student outcomes, goal-setting, and tracking progress.
"I am hopeful that this new board will follow the LSG framework, but we will have to wait and see," outgoing board president and trustee Angelina Osteguin said in a text immediately following the election.
Edward Mungia, who left his seat representing District 3 Monday night, also emphasized the need for the new board and superintendent to work as a "team of eight."