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South San school board vacancies to be filled next week

Written by on September 10, 2019

South San school board vacancies to be filled next week

South San ISD school board vice president Gilbert F. Rodriguez listens to community members during a special meeting to discussing and possibly take action on three vacancies on the board that were created when three trustees resigned unexpectedly last week on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019.

Days after the exodus of three South San Antonio Independent School District board members, the four remaining trustees took steps to appoint their replacements.

On Monday night, trustees Connnie Prado, Gilbert Rodriguez, Shirley Ibarra Pena and Homer Flores voted to accept applications for the vacancies.

Trustees had the option of nominating individuals to be considered by the entire board. It also could have called a November special election, but would have had to order it by Sept. 20, with a candidate filing deadline of Sept. 26.

Instead, trustees will interview candidates and select replacements during their Sept. 18 meeting.

Mandy Martinez, Louis Ybarra Jr. and Elda Flores all resigned last week to protest the board majority’s decision to buy out the contract of Superintendent Alexandro Flores. The three former trustees had been on the losing side of key board votes since elections in November changed the makeup of the board.

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Three district residents who regularly attend board meetings offered encouragement to the remaining trustees, with Angie Olvera calling the three who resigned “sore losers.”

“(Now) we can find additional board members like the board members who are here serving tonight. That’d be great,” resident Juan Vigil said.

Prado, the board president, defended against negative comments made by the departing trustees and reiterated the board’s commitment to developing three recently reopened schools.

“We can never forget why each of us is here,” Prado said. “If our students succeed then our school district succeeds.”

In a letter to the remaining four trustees, the district’s lawyer, Kevin O’Hanlon, advised that they appoint the replacements. By law, trustees have180 days to fill the vacancies, which would have been March 7. O’Hanlon warned that the board could be crippled in future meetings if any one member was unable to attend because four of them must to be present for there to be a quorum to conduct business.

Terms for the appointees will expire in November 2020. Ybarra and Flores’ terms would have expired then anyway. Martinez, who was just elected last year, had more than three years left of her term. State law requires that an appointee can serve only until the next regular election to fill the remaining unexpired term of that seat.

On South San ISD super to get $187K in separation agreement

The day after their resignations, the former trustees called on the Texas Education Agency to take over the elected board. At least three state elected officials — Rep. Diego Bernal and state Sens. Pete Flores and José Menéndez — have said they favored more state oversight of the board.

“Am I the only one who thinks TEA should take over South San?” Bernal wrote on Twitter last week.

A TEA investigation of the district was opened in April in response to complaints that board members overstepped their authority in moving to reopen three closed schools — Athens Elementary, Kazen Middle School and West Campus High School. The state agency is not bound by a timeline.

In a series of 4-3 votes, the board overruled Alexandro Flores’ recommendations and proceeded with reopening the shuttered campuses. The schools did not draw as many students as projected when they opened last month and board members blamed the superintendent for not doing enough to promote and market them.

Krista Torralva covers several school districts and public universities in the San Antonio and Bexar County area.

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