Superintendent Rey Madrigal entered into four agreements and made payments to Terracon Consultants without board approval, a TEA report alleges. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

In the middle of a Texas Education Agency investigation into potential wrongdoing in Harlandale Independent School District – including allegations of inappropriate action taken by Superintendent Rey Madrigal – trustees voted to extend the superintendent’s contract.

The board approved a one-year contract extension for Madrigal on a 4-1 vote Thursday night. The extension puts the end date of his contract at June 30, 2021.

Trustees Juan Mancha, Ricardo Moreno, Zeke Mendoza, and Christine Carrillo voted in favor of the extension. Trustee Jesus Tejeda voted against and David Abundis abstained from voting. The seventh trustee position remains open after Carlos Quezada was elected judge of the 289th District Court in November. The last time Madrigal’s contract was extended was on July 10, 2017.

Trustees typically evaluate superintendents twice a school year – midyear evaluation in January and an end-of-year evaluation in the summer. The board evaluated Madrigal last June but couldn’t complete the evaluation because of missing information, trustees said Thursday night.

They did vote to increase Madrigal’s salary by 3 percent during the summer evaluation but did not offer a contract extension at the time because of the missing information.

Because they did not offer an extension last summer, trustees said Madrigal was out of the typical three-year contract cycle that most superintendents have. Extending the contract into 2021 gets Harlandale back on a regular timeline, they said.

The contract discussion comes at a time of turmoil in the district, with the Texas Education Agency investigating potential conflicts of interest and board governance issues.

In a preliminary report, drafted after a more than yearlong TEA special accreditation investigation, state officials stated that wrongdoing could be significant enough to suspend the powers of the board of trustees and install a conservator to oversee district operations. Some districts affected by such sanctions have also replaced their superintendents.

The TEA found in its report that Madrigal entered into four agreements and made payments to Terracon Consultants without board approval, a violation of both district policy and the Texas Education Code.

While the report is not final and the state is still working through the district’s response to the preliminary findings, the investigation raised concerns about Harlandale’s governance both by Madrigal and the board of trustees. The district disputed the findings, saying the state’s conclusion that purchasing and procurement laws were violated was incorrect and “based upon misapplied legal requirements.”

The 14,000-student district on San Antonio’s South Side hired Madrigal as superintendent in February 2013, although he was selected as interim superintendent the previous summer.

Madrigal is a veteran of the district, spending more than three decades under the district’s employ as a special education teacher and coach before moving up to become principal at Harlandale High School. He was later promoted to be the assistant superintendent of operations before being named the district’s top administrator when the previous superintendent, Robert Jaklich, left the district for a job in Victoria ISD.

Over the years, Madrigal’s salary has almost doubled. In 2012-13, the first year he served as interim superintendent, he was paid just over $106,000 for his base salary. In 2017-18, Madrigal’s base salary was more than $210,000, according to TEA data.

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.