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Education Commissioner Appoints Conservator To Oversee South San ISD Operations

The state has stripped board members and administrators in the South San Antonio Independent School District of some significant authority.

Friday, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath, appointed a conservator to oversee financial management and governance decisions at the district.

“This intervention is necessary,” Morath wrote, “to prevent substantial or imminent harm to the welfare of the district’s students or to the public interest.”

The conservator’s role will include overseeing financial management and governance of the district.

In November, following an investigation, the Texas Education Agency ordered the district to change financial practices and resolve conflicts of interest by school board trustees.

The Texas Education Agency’s DeEtta Culbertson says the district didn’t make the required corrections, so Morath appointed educator Judy Castleberry to “get the district back on track.”

As conservator Castleberry will oversee the financial management and governance of the district.  She has filled similar roles in other districts including El Paso.  She was asked to help manage that district after a probe found administrators had inflated test scores in order to collect financial bonuses. 

Culbertson says Castleberry will be the final word on many decisions.

“When a conservator is appointed they normally have authority to override any decisions by the district, by the administration and the board.”

South San Antonio ISD will have to pay for the conservator’s services:  $85 an hour, plus travel and expenses. 

Late last year, South San Antonio ISD Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra filed a complaint with the state alleging possible violations by board members. Neither Saavedra or board president Connie Prado could be reached for comment Friday. 

See the Texas Education Agency notice here: 

Notice of Appointment of Conservator for South San ISD

Shelley Kofler is Texas Public Radio’s news director. She joined the San Antonio station in December 2014 and leads a growing staff that produces two weekly programs; a daily talk show, news features, reports and online content. Prior to TPR, Shelley served as the managing editor and news director at KERA in Dallas-Fort Worth, and the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.