The South San ISD board of trustees Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Throughout the past year, members of the South San Antonio Independent School District board have voiced criticism of media coverage of the district and board activity, describing it as too negative and skewed.

On Wednesday night, the board voted to seek applications for a “special projects communications specialist … to assist the Board of Trustees, as appropriate,” according to the meeting agenda.

After praising the work of the district’s public information officer and her marketing efforts, Board President Connie Prado spoke about why she believed the board needed such a spokesperson.

“I think there [are] a lot of things that we do as a board that really don’t get put out there,” Prado said, adding that “it has got to be more positive for the board.”

The board president said that the public information officer already had a long list of responsibilities and did not need added tasks, which was why a new position was needed.

While South San’s board operating policy, which was approved in June, requires all board members to forward media inquiries to the school district’s public information officer, trustees frequently grant interviews to members of the media, both by telephone and in person.

Prado said she did not believe she or fellow trustees should have to speak on behalf of the board.

“I think having someone as our voice that will do the research and provide factual information to the public … that’s something that we really needed,” Prado said.

Prado referenced the Texas Education Agency investigation into dysfunctional board governance and the amended investigation, expanded in December, into issues with purchasing and contracts, as items the communications specialist could help the board address. Prado added the specialist could also speak to other special projects and work with the media and community members.

Other board members agreed that such a position would be a valuable addition.

Trustee Shirley Ibarra Pena expressed frustration with always hearing about “the negativity of South San.”

“For once I would like to read the positive stuff our school board does for our staff, our students, our community,” Ibarra Pena said.

Trustee Kevin Rasco said he hoped such a position would allow the board to tell its own story, and trustee Gilbert Rodriguez echoed his sentiments.

Prado told those gathered for Wednesday night’s school board meeting that other districts also employ such a position. “You see them all the time,” she said.

No other San Antonio school districts currently employ a spokesperson who solely represents the district’s board. 

The district will soon begin accepting requests for qualifications, but the extent of the future job responsibilities and the salary of the position were unclear at the time of Wednesday night’s board meeting. Prado said the position could work on an as needed basis.

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the Rivard Report.

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