South San ISD trustees terminate superintendent’s contract; Connie Prado announces exit
The board of trustees for the South San Antonio Independent School District voted 3-2 to terminate Marc Puig’s superintendent contract Wednesday.
Trustees placed Puig on paid administrative leave five months ago after a hot mic caught an exchange between Puig and Board President Ernesto Arrellano Jr.
In the exchange, captured during the pause before the board went into closed session Nov. 17, Puig and Arrellano talked about hiring decisions, culminating with a comment from Arrellano that he could step down so that Puig could hire his brother. Arrellano later said that comment was a joke.
After meeting in a closed session for two hours Wednesday, all five trustees in attendance voted to approve a “summative evaluation” of Puig’s performance as superintendent.
Trustee Homer Flores then moved to “relieve Dr. Puig of all job duties effective immediately, suspend him without pay for good cause, and direct legal counsel to deliver written notice of proposed termination for good cause.”
Arrellano, Flores and Stacey Alderete voted for Puig’s termination. Connie Prado and Gilbert Rodriguez voted against it.
Shirley Ibarra and Gina Villagomez were absent Wednesday, allowing the termination to pass with just three votes.
Puig was South San’s eighth superintendent in nine years, including interims. Current interim superintendent Henry Yzaguirre is the district’s fourth leader in less than three years. South San has paid Yzaguirre $886 a day while continuing to pay Puig’s salary since the board suspended Puig Dec. 6.
The district has a long history of board dysfunction and is currently under investigation by the Texas Education Agency for board overreach.
Prado announces resignation
Longtime board trustee Connie Prado also announced Wednesday that she would be resigning from the board June 30.
“It has indeed been an honor and a privilege to represent the community since 1998. South San will always have a special place in my heart for all time,” Prado told trustees.
Prado did not say why she was resigning during the meeting, but in an interview with Texas Public Radio Thursday she said her decision had nothing to do with Puig’s termination or the Texas Education Agency’s latest investigation into the district.
“That is something that I leave in the hands of the board,” Prado said. “Those are issues now that they're going to have to work through with the guidance of their legal counsel.”
Prado said she can’t say too much about her vote against the termination because it was discussed in closed session, but she learned firsthand when the district fired Ron Durbon in 2011 that it was important to have good cause.
“You have to have good cause to terminate a superintendent, because when they go before a hearing officer, if TEA doesn't think we have good cause that superintendents going to come back,” Prado said.
“I had already mentioned that even though I won my election for another four years that I would not serve the remainder of my years, because my term is not up till 2024,” Prado said. “But I just had not decided when I was going to retire.”
Prado is 73 years old. She said she had already told the board and district leaders she planned to retire before her term is up in 2024.
“I just had not decided when I was going to retire,” Prado said. “I figured this is probably (a) good time, only because it's the end of the school year, and I will be able to attend and be a participant of my 25th commencement exercise of South San come June the first. That, to me, is a real personal accomplishment, because that's why I'm there. I'm there to see these kids succeed and see them cross that stage.”
Prado has played a prominent role on the board throughout her tenure, often serving as president. During her more than two decades as a trustee, South San gained a reputation for board dysfunction and micromanagement. The district has also repeatedly been investigated by the Texas Education Agency.
Puig’s next steps
Puig’s attorney, Neal Adams, said the board didn’t properly complete Puig’s evaluation and trustees didn’t use the right language in Wednesday night’s agenda. He plans to fight the termination.
“They didn't follow their own policy. Much less, they didn't follow chapter 21 of the (state) education code,” Adams said. “And they didn't follow Dr. Puig's contract and some language in Dr. Puig's contract.”
Adams also said he’s represented superintendents in employment disputes for 35 years, and this is the first time he’s seen a board propose termination without pay.
“That creates a significantly different legal exposure, not only for the district but the three individual board members who voted for that motion,” Adams said.
Adams said he was still deciding the next step to take, but that Puig would not be accepting his termination.
“Something's going to happen. It's just a matter of what and when, and where,” Adams said. “I'm still analyzing that strategy.”