South San Board to Hand-Pick New Trustees in Lieu of Election

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Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

(From left) SSAISD Board of Trustees President Connie Prado and Vice President Gilbert Rodriguez.

South San Antonio School District Board President Connie Prado and three other board trustees on Monday accepted the resignation of three board members who abdicated in protest last week following Superintendent Alexandro Flores’ resignation.

Elda Flores, Mandy Martinez, and Louis Ybarra are off the embattled board effective immediately leaving Prado, Homer Flores, Shirley Ibarra Pena, and Gilbert Rodriguez to fill the vacancies. The remaining four trustees unanimously decided Monday to fill the open seats via appointment.

The application process will open Sept. 10 and close at 5 p.m. on Sept. 17. Interested candidates can deliver their applications to the San Antonio office of South San attorney Kevin O’Hanlon.

Trustees plan to review the applications and interview candidates at the regularly scheduled board meeting on Sept. 18. The board’s plan is to issue the oath of office for selected candidates the night of Sept. 18 and have the new trustees take their seats that evening.

The board members had the choice of filling the vacancies with a special election, but opted for appointment because the next special election would not have been held until November. Leaving the seats vacant would make it difficult to hold meetings with a quorum should one of the board members get sick or have a prior commitment.

In 2018, a seat remained vacant for several months when the district struggled to recruit qualified applicants.

Superintendent Flores submitted his resignation last week and the board named Chief Academic Officer Dolores Sendejo the interim superintendent. Flores’ separation agreement awarded him $187,577.50, the equivalent of 11 months of salary and benefits. Sendejo is the seventh South San superintendent to oversee the district in the last 10 years.

The day after the former trustees resigned, all three called on the Texas Education Agency to intervene in South San.

TEA officials are currently investigating South San for claims of board dysfunction and trustees impeding the job of the superintendent.

The complaints that triggered the TEA investigation were related to a plan, backed by the board majority, to reopen Athens Elementary, Kazen Middle, and West Campus High School in the span of a few months. The schools opened for the start of the 2019-20 school year, but so far have had about 450 students enroll across the three campuses.

During Monday’s meeting, Prado compared the recently resigned trustees to children playing marbles as she reflected on their board service.

“The child who owns the marbles loses the game,” Prado said. “They get upset, the child no longer wants to play, picks up their marbles and goes home. Young children don’t know any better but responsible adults in leadership positions should know better.”

The trustees also announced Monday night the hiring of Buck Gilcrease, a consultant with Moak, Casey & Associates in Austin, as the board and interim superintendent’s “mentor.” The board did not provide details on compensation for Gilcrease’s services, but Gilcrease said he would be reimbursed for travel expenses to and from Austin. A contract likely will be prepared by the end of this week.

Trustee Rodriguez outlined Gilcrease’s job description prior to the vote to hire him as providing technical assistance to the interim superintendent and giving input to the board as it engages the community, renews and strengthens the commitment to Lone Star Governance, and focuses on students in the classroom.

The position of mentor is not typical in Texas school systems and Gilcrease said he had not previously served in this capacity with other districts, although he compared his role to a consultant. Gilcrease worked with South San’s Budget Committee as a Moak Casey consultant earlier this year. Moak Casey helped craft a timeline to set the pace for the school reopenings.

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