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Former bilingual teacher and immigrant selected as sole finalist for superintendent of San Antonio ISD

Camille Phillips
Texas Public Radio
Jaime Aquino speaks to reporters and community members on Monday after the San Antonio Independent School District named him the sole finalist for the job of superintendent.

Jaime Aquino, a former bilingual teacher and immigrant from the Dominican Republic, will be the next superintendent of the San Antonio Independent School District.

Trustees named Aquino as the sole finalist for the role Monday night. He will be officially appointed to the role in 21 days, as required by state law.

Board President Christina Martinez said Aquino stood out from the pool of more than 40 applicants because he fit the leadership profile developed by JG Consulting. The profile was based on feedback community members gave in a survey and through town halls earlier in the semester.

“I think one of the number one things that stood out to us about what we heard from the community is that they wanted somebody who listened. And by the time Dr. Aquino had gotten to the interview, he had really listened,” Martinez said.

“He had brought to us so much of the learning that he had had not just in driving the community,” she added, “but he had also spent a lot of time listening to board meetings, and brought with him some really great innovative ideas (and) some suggestions.”

Martinez said he also fit the community’s request for a superintendent with classroom teaching experience who has similar life experience as many of the district’s students, and someone who values transparency.

During a Q&A with reporters and community members, Aquino promised a parent group that he would give 15 minutes of his time to any community member who wanted to speak with him during the first three to six months on the job.

“I’m going to have my door open,” Aquino said in Spanish. “Speak with me and tell me your passions, your hopes, your prayers.”

Aquino has been in education for more than 30 years. He held senior leadership roles in New York, Denver and Los Angeles public schools. Most recently, he was employed as a senior vice president at Discovery Education, an online learning platform.

Aquino said San Antonio’s family feel and the district’s positive trajectory inspired him to return to K-12 schools as superintendent.

“I think that (with) my skills, knowledge and my experience, we can take this district to the next level. We can move from good to great and not stop at great but go to extraordinary,” he explained, adding that his first priority will be improving student achievement.

“There's been significant progress in the school district, but there's still 67% of the students, in all grades and all subject areas, that are not on grade level. And we need to change that,” Aquino said. “So, I'm going to have a laser like focus on teaching and learning.”

He added that he also plans to focus on investing in staff and review the district’s finances.

Retired superintendent Robert Jaklich served as the interim superintendent at SAISD this school year after Pedro Martinez accepted a position as CEO of Chicago Public Schools.

Martinez led SAISD for six years. During his tenure he received both praise and criticism for making at times controversial decisions in pursuit of transforming the district.

He’s credited with setting the district on firmer academic footing and shrinking the number of schools on the state’s accountability watch list. His critics, including the teachers union, disliked his lack of teaching experience and felt he wasn’t very transparent.

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