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The Source: South San Troubles In Era Of Heightened Accountability

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Earlier this month, the Texas Education Agency cited South San Antonio Independent School District with several violations surrounding the district's governance of its finances. The district was accused by elected officials and citizens of, among other things, mismanaging funds and violating procurement laws.

According to the report, the violations "stem from the board's inability to work collaboratively with its new executive administration" to implement uniform financial operating policies and internal controls. 

Dr. Abelardo Saavedra South San ISD Superintendent
 

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  The "new executive administration" it refers to is that of Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra, who was hired in December 2013. Saavedra has run two large school districts in Corpus Christi and the state's largest at Houston ISD. He was brought in to South San ISD as the 5th superintendent in three years with the notion of reform. The district has for decades wrestled with dysfunction. The TEA-written report sheds light that the administration and the school board have been at odds.

South San ISD wouldn't comment on the TEA investigation except for the following statement:

"The district has completed its review of TEA’s Final Report and Corrective Action Plan in regards to the management of the 2010 Bond Program. A calendar of compliance and proposed work plan was presented to the board and approved last Wednesday, November 11.  Although members of the administration team that managed the bond program are no longer with the district, the current administration has been proactive in its efforts to improve processes and efficiency within the business office. We will continue to work with TEA to resolve concerns discovered in the investigation."

Last week, it leaked that rather than continue to battle the school board, Saavedra was seeking a buyout of $377,043, the equivalent of one-year's salary with benefits and vacation. Saavedra pointed to the school's trustees recent remarks that he "deceived" teachers about compensation as the reason. The letter from Saavedra's lawyers says "It has severely crippled if not destroyed Dr. Saavedra's authority with District personnel."

While some of our calls to South San Trustees went unanswered, South San Trustee Stacey Estrada called The Source during today's broadcast to voice her support for Dr. Saavedra, "I'm hoping at this point that he reconsiders," said Estrada.

Estrada also said she was certain that the work of students is overshadowed by the behavior of the board, "There's so many good things going on. Our students are doing amazing things and unfortunately that's not making the news."

As the state demands that the district make changes or face increasing corrective actions, other school districts across Texas are facing the results of noncompliance, and have had their accreditation removed. Friday, the TEA removed La Marque ISD's accreditation. The small district near Houston has had several run ins with the TEA. The move comes after a conservatorship, more than a million dollars in state payback, and other corrective actions.

What happens when a school district loses accreditation?

Guests:

  • Julian Treviño, lecturer in education leadership and expert in school board and superintendent relations
  • Rey Saldaña, council member for San Antonio's district four. 
  • Joe Smith, former school district superintendent and editor of the online state education blog TexasISD.com.

 

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive