State Conservator Judy Castleberry shakes hands with members of the audience after announcing to the school board that her appointment is coming to an end. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

After almost two years under state purview, the Texas Education Agency removed its state conservator from South San Antonio Independent School District. Judy Castleberry’s departure, effective immediately, was made official Wednesday during the district board meeting.

Her exit is an early sign that the once-troubled board is making progress towards stability in the eyes of the TEA.

When the board failed to comply with a corrective action plan, Castleberry was appointed in February 2016 to supervise the financial management and governance of South San ISD.

The board’s recent certification in Lone Star Governance illustrated an effort of trustees to act in the best interest of it students, TEA Deputy Commissioner of Governance A.J. Crabill wrote in a letter to the board Wednesday.

In January 2017, the entire board attended a two-day workshop to gain this certification in school board management. A few school board trustees have turned over since then, but the new members have continued to receive training.

“I wanted to take this opportunity to say that the board has made significant progress in the almost two years that I have been here and that has nothing to do with anything that I have done,” Castleberry told the board.

The district won a coveted spot alongside only seven other districts into the TEA’s System of Great Schools network in September 2017. The program offers technical assistance to districts seeking to improve college-readiness rates.

In Crabill’s letter, he encouraged the board to continue its work.

“Please note that the removal of the conservator does not relieve the district and its board of trustees of the responsibility to, at all times, operate the district in compliance with applicable statues and rules,” he wrote.

The board is currently working to replace two vacant seats representing districts three and six. Applications were due at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, but the board has extended the deadline through Jan. 24. The board plans to interview applicants on Jan. 25 during public meetings. The new board members could be appointed on the same day.

The candidates appointed will fill the positions until November 2018, when the seats will be back up for re-election.

The District 3 trustee position will be up for election in 2020, and the District 6 seat will be open again for a November 2022 election. Trustees serve four-year terms.

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the Rivard Report.

Read more