TEA: Southside School Board Ready For Return To Local Control | Texas Public Radio

TEA: Southside School Board Ready For Return To Local Control

May 17, 2019

The Texas Education Agency has set a date for a gradual transition back to independent governance in the Southside school district: May 2020.

TEA deputy commissioner Jeff Cottrill publicly announced the news Thursday shortly before four newly elected trustees took their oaths of office.

A state-appointed board of managers has been in charge of the district since 2017, when a TEA investigation found that trustees had procured contracts illegally.

None of the candidates elected to the Southside school board earlier this month were on the board at the time of the state takeover.

Cottrill said Thursday that TEA would begin returning the district to local control now, but a provision in the education code requires a one year delay.

“All things indicate that things are going well, and we’re very proud of that,” Cottrill said. “Please know that the transition in May of 2020, the initiation of this transition back to local control at that time, is not a reflection of the current state of Southside ISD, nor of any concerns that are possessed by the Texas Education Agency.”

Under the Texas Education Code, elected trustees are gradually added to the board of managers over the course of three years during a transition back to local control. The first year, TEA appoints two trustees to the board, creating a hybrid board of five appointed members and two elected members. The following year, TEA appoints three more trustees, replacing three appointed members. In the third year, the final two trustees join the board, completing the return to local control.

But according to Cottrill, only trustees elected during an election called for by the board of managers are eligible. Because Southside’s 2017 school board election occurred before the board of managers took over, TEA would have run out of eligible trustees to appoint to the board if it began the transition now.

“If we were to do it now, a year from now we would not have the three necessary to transition,” Cottrill said.

However, Cottrill said the bond approved by voters in 2017 is valid.

If all goes well, Cottrill said Southside should be completely returned to local governance by May 2022.

Southside is one of two Bexar County school districts run by state-appointed boards of managers. Edgewood ISD began transitioning back to local control last year.

Two other San Antonio school districts, Harlandale and South San, are under state investigation.

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@TPR.org and on Twitter at @cmpcamille.