SAISD Families Question Process Behind Plan for New Headquarters

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The master plan of the proposed SAISD central office site.

Courtesy / RVK Architects

This rendering shows master plan for the proposed SAISD central office site.

San Antonio Independent School District parents and community members peppered Superintendent Pedro Martinez with questions Wednesday evening at Fox Tech High School, where the third and final public meeting to discuss the district’s new central office plans there took place.

Questions ranged from future growth of SAISD central office staff to potential impacts on traffic in the area. SAISD trustee Steve Lecholop (D1) emphasized the need for a central office to eliminate monetary and operational inefficiencies created by a spread-out district staff.

“When you have an academic department that is living in a building that is not where the superintendent is, you by nature create silos,” Lecholop said. “You can’t go down the hallway to ask the HR person a question about staffing at the school. You create insularity, silos, and get rid of any harmonies that come from working in the same space.”

SAISD has two years to vacate its current central office in Southtown. The district sold the property to the group that redeveloped the Pearl in late February, but is leasing it from the buyers for $100 per year, for 28 months.

The new building at Fox Tech will consolidate 30 departments and offices that are currently located in six different facilities. Kamal ElHabr, SAISD’s associate superintendent of construction services, told the Rivard Report in July the new building would house around 625 SAISD employees.

Martinez said the district’s plan aimed to strike a balance among meeting the needs of the district, being responsible to taxpayers, and conserving green space – a hot topic as the new office will be built on top of Fox Tech High School’s football field. The school does not have a varsity football team.

Martinez said the district would make up for the football field being gone by creating up to two times as much green space as exists now and make it open to the public. He added the district could partner with the City to make the green space a park.

The plan would include four lanes of dedicated drop-off and pick-up for parents to help alleviate traffic in the area, Martinez  said, as well as adequate parking for office staff.

Sara Schmidt, whose fourth-grader attends the Advanced Learning Academy, asked if the district had planned for growth in the central office to avoid space shortage down the road. Martinez said no, but that his administrative staff has already shrunk in the past year because of job cuts.

The district would also make ground-floor spaces such as board rooms available for public use, he said.

“Worst case scenario, we have a lot of space on the first floor,” he said. “But we want to free up that space for the community. It’s a central office building, but it’s also a public building.”

Schmidt said she was frustrated by the lack of transparency in the planning process for the new headquarters. She missed the first two community meetings the district organized, and when she called to ask for meeting notes, there were none for her to look at.

“I didn’t know about the previous meetings, which is why I wanted to get something in writing, some notes,” she said. “Nothing was available.”

SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez presents the master plan for the SAISD central office site layout.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez presents the master plan for the SAISD central office.

She also scoffed at the traffic proposal because the district has yet to complete a study analyzing how a new office would affect traffic in the area.

“As a parent, it is ridiculous to think it’s going to reduce traffic on Flores [Street],” she said. “It doesn’t take into account all the directions parents come from.”

Yon Hui Bell, another SAISD parent, said she appreciates the community meetings, but they came too late.

“I think having community participation in the decision-making process is important,” she said. “What kind of participation is there if students and community [aren’t included] while decisions are being made?”

8 thoughts on “SAISD Families Question Process Behind Plan for New Headquarters

  1. Fact heck:
    “The district sold the property to the group that redeveloped the Pearl in late February”

    (Nope, different groups)

  2. Will there be a soccer field? And when will this reported green space actually be available to students? In one plan the green space was a later phase that would be done many years in the future. Not soon enough for kids there now who will have to live with this construction. And what about the dust and construction traffic? How does that affect our kids? There are empty schools SAISD could renovate. I’m just so sad because I thought my child would be at ALA through graduation and now I’m getting so worried that it isn’t going to work out. I feel like this process is rushed and that even though parents keep saying ‘please don’t do it,’ the district is going to do it anyway.

    • I do see the multipurpose field. I’m still concerned about the timelines for when this greenspace is actually scheduled to happen and how long our young children are going to be attending school and trying to exercise in a construction zone.

    • A sad presentation of a potential opportunity which also ignores the concerns of existing and future attending families in terms of both the need to expand the existing schools on the campus and the environment in which the students will live.

      The new geeen space for the kids will be open the public? Really? Have any of the planners noted the transient traffic in the area?

      Why not make it all green space? There is an opportunity to have something world class, in terms of the green space available for a downtown public school campus. It won’t come again. The building could be built elsewhere.

  3. It is more than obvious that all this planning is focused on ALA. I think that many feel there is disparity towards the Fox Tech High School Students. Since 2011 SAISD has been trying to put a parking lot on the Fox Tech football field. Fox Tech is the only SAISD high school that does not have a football team. I keep reading that because Fox Tech does not have a football team, SAISD intend to build a parking lot and offices. Well, Why doesn’t Fox Tech have a football team?? Because that football field is prime property and development is more important that the needs of the students in this barrio community. I call it discrimination. The Rivard Report once make a comment to imply that the growth and development in the downtown area was the priority and Fox Tech High School was in the way of development. (Not per sea) but this is what I gathered from it.

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