South San Board Votes to Reopen Three Schools Despite Concerns of Students, Parents

Print Share on LinkedIn Comments More
The South San Antonio ISD school board.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

The South San Antonio ISD school board votes to move forward with plans to reopen three closed schools.

Choosing to go against Superintendent Alexandro Flores’ recommendations, four South San Antonio Independent School District trustees voted Wednesday night to reject Councilman Rey Saldana’s proposal to transform a closed middle school into a community center and instead voted to move ahead with the reopening of that school and two other shuttered campuses by next fall.

Earlier in the evening, tears flowed freely and frequently as more than 20 students and parents spoke to the board, for the most part against the proposal to reopen the schools.

Students from South San High School spoke openly about their struggles with mental health, asking the seven trustees to make Kazen Middle School into a community center with resources to improve access to mental health care. A number of students recounted suicide attempts, dealing with anxiety, and a desire for better mental health resources on the South Side of town.

“I don’t have much support in my community and I still have to drive far outside [South San] to get the support [for mental health that] I need,” senior Melivia Mujica said. “My mental health and my wellbeing is just as important as my education. … We need more services, not more buildings.”

In a tearful speech, South San High School teacher Arabella Daniels implored the trustees to use available money for mental health services and listen to Saldaña’s proposal. Daniels noted that in one of her classes, there are five students who have attempted suicide.

It is very hard as a teacher who cares about their students to see a child suffer in that way and feel like they might not have all the resources they would have if they lived on another side of town,” Daniels said. 

Saldaña, whose District 4 includes South San ISD, told trustees he wanted to work with the school board to fix challenges students face on the South Side. He described students being on a “razor’s edge between success and failure” and needing all the resources they could get.

A four-trustee majority voted to accept the recommendations of the district’s budget committee, which recently voted to move forward with a timeline and plan from consultants in order to reopen Athens Elementary, Kazen, and West Campus High School, by next fall. The four-trustee majority included school board members Homer Flores, Shirley Ibarra Pena, Connie Prado, and Gilbert Rodriguez.

Members of South San district administration seemed unclear on what the vote actually meant. Board counsel told the Rivard Report the vote is “binding to the extent that it tells the superintendent to go ahead with serious planning.”

At the meeting, the superintendent spoke for the first time explicitly against the proposal on its current timeline, asking trustees to table the vote until more community feedback could be heard.

After the vote, trustee Elda Flores, who voted against the reopening proposal, called it an “injustice to students” who had just spoken so openly about their mental health challenges and the need for more money devoted to related resources.

Laurie Elliott, a Texas Education Agency official working with South San to help coach the board on governance procedures, described the evening as a “very eye-opening experience.” Without commenting directly on how she viewed the workings of South San’s board, she stated that the school boards who exhibit strong governance work collaboratively with superintendents to make decisions for the best interest of the students.

The budget committee is expected to meet again to hammer out further details needed to reopen the three campuses. A parent survey likely will be distributed to gauge interest in the reopened campuses.

6 thoughts on “South San Board Votes to Reopen Three Schools Despite Concerns of Students, Parents

  1. Emily – Who are the four trustees who voted to reopen the schools, and why did they vote that way? There’s been plenty of coverage in RR regarding why the schools closed, and why reopening them is a bad idea. But what’s the argument for reopening them? I’m curious to know why the majority of trustees want to reopen these schools despite declining enrollment, despite budget deficits, despite the superintendent’s recommendation against it, and despite apparent community opposition.

  2. From an earlier article in the Rivard Report titled ” South San Trustees to Consider Reopening Closed Elementary, Middle, and High School”-

    “The closure of schools was a major point of contention for residents opposed to the tax rate increase [that failed to pass in October 2018]. When Kazen and Athens closed, then-Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra said closing the schools would save the district a little more than $3 million. Opponents questioned why the district needed more money after shuttering schools.”

    They appear to believe they will not be able to raise taxes while decreasing the amount of campuses they oversee. “If you build it, they will come” seems to be the operating philosophy of the South San trustees.

  3. This is a bad decision and these board members need to be held accountable. These kids will not come back to South San Antonio ISD. The growth is not there and once the current projected house sites go up, they wont have any impact on the Athens or Kazen. This is simply Connie Prado wanting to stick it back to Dr. Saveddra who isn’t even here anymore. She helped bring the greedy crook here and then wanted him gone. The decision to close the schools were due to low numbers but many of the teachers and staff were not cut, just transfered to other position, so there wasn’t much saving in closing the schools. Doesn’t make sense to open a school when you are only at 30% capacity. TEA where are you, we need a board of managers to come in. 3 of the board members are very arrogant and will push this thru no matter what the cost is. If they were so smart, why don’t we get rid of some of the senior staffers and let these board members run it. This will break SSA ISD if they push it through.

  4. This is a bad idea there are several idea and charter schools open in our district where are they going to to find students to fill these schools
    Another concern is how could these supposedly educated board members not see the need for mental health care for students. I am sickened with choices being made by our board, why not open one health Center come to an agreement with opportunities to help students with mental issues.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *