Following an investigation into harassment allegations made against Superintendent Emilio Castro, Edgewood Independent School District’s board of managers voted unanimously to accept Castro’s resignation Thursday night. However, the board declined to make public any findings of the investigation.
Castro, who became superintendent in November 2016, submitted a resignation letter Monday, and his departure will be effective March 31. Until then, he remains on paid leave. He received an annual salary of $205,000.
A district employee, Gloria Collins, accused Castro of inappropriate physical contact in mid-February. The state-appointed board of managers hired an outside law firm to investigate her claims on Feb. 23, and named Chief Academic Officer Phillip Chavez as the interim administrator in charge.
On Thursday, the board of managers voted to continue keeping Chavez on as acting superintendent until it appoints a permanent replacement for Castro.
Although the investigation results were not released publicly, Sen. José Menéndez (D-San Antonio), whose district includes Edgewood ISD, said he “read between the lines” to understand that “the investigation came up with something negative” regarding Castro’s behavior.
At the Thursday night meeting during which the board worked in closed session to negotiate what the agenda described as the “superintendent’s voluntary separation agreement,” the district did not reveal any details of the investigation’s findings.
Board President Roy Soto said the board of managers received an update on the investigation’s progress on March 8, and at that time decided the board would ask for Castro’s resignation “in the best interest of Edgewood ISD.”
Soto said Castro’s lawyer and the district’s lawyer met and mutually agreed that Castro would resign. Castro then submitted his resignation letter on Monday. The district will compensate Castro with his salary and benefits through March 31, and also compensate him for seven local and eight-and-a-half state leave days he has accrued.
According to Castro’s contract, these 15 1/2 days calculated at the rate of his $205,000 annual salary equals $14,059. In addition, Castro will be paid $5,442 for his remaining six days of business on paid leave.
Soto stressed Castro would only be paid through March 31. Castro has not performed any duties since Feb. 23.
The board president had no clear answer on why Castro would remain on paid leave until March 31, waiting for his official resignation date, while Chavez filled in as an interim superintendent.
“We weren’t very clear as to when we would get closure on the resignation, so it would be difficult to pick a date,” Soto said. “But by the 31st, we knew we could accomplish the resignation at that point.”
When Edgewood hired Castro, board member Amanda Gonzalez cast the lone dissenting vote on his hiring. The Texas Education Agency removed her from the board of managers in September 2017 without stating a reason. She said Wednesday he should not receive financial support in this separation.
“The Board of Managers should add a clause in future contracts that a buyout right is forfeited if termination is based on acts of harassment or assault,” she said in an email to the Rivard Report. “Dr. Castro has embarrassed the district and does not deserve any sort of financial support.”
The board also unanimously approved a no-cost contract with the Texas Association of School Boards superintendent search service to find Castro’s replacement. TASB did the search that resulted in Castro’s hiring in 2016.
Soto said the district would not have to pay TASB for this 2018 search because of a clause in their original agreement that allows for a no-cost search if a superintendent is no longer in place after two years.
Menéndez said he recently met with Chavez to talk about how to move the district forward, and was impressed with the interim leadership.
“I would like to see [Chavez] considered in whatever pool is being looked at,” Menéndez said.
He also said any future candidates should be fully vetted prior to being hired and that the community should have every opportunity to give feedback on the process.
TEA spokeswoman Lauren Callahan said all personnel decisions are made locally. In Edgewood’s case, when Commissioner Mike Morath appointed the board of managers in May 2016, he made them the local governing board. The TEA installed the board of managers because it found that the elected board of trustees was unable to govern the district effectively.
Superintendent searches often take up to and beyond six months. Soto said he expects the search to take between 90 to 120 days and that the district will have a new superintendent in place for next school year.
Soto said the results of the investigation into alleged harassment by Castro would not be released because some of the information was confidential.
“I believe that that is confidential information,” Soto said. “Often when witnesses are involved in investigations, they really don’t want to make any information public. You have to be sensitive to everyone’s rights.”
Gonzalez disagreed, saying that the board of managers must present the findings of the investigation to the community to “provide a sense of accountability and transparency.”
“The public’s money was spent on this investigation, so the results belong to them,” she said. “If the results are not released, it would smell like the district is inappropriately hiding something or protecting someone.”
Menéndez said he believes, in part, that the taxpayers should know what the investigation found, but also thinks that if the board of managers could negotiate Castro’s resignation without a buyout or any severance, not making the investigation results public becomes “a little more palatable.”
Menéndez said that even if the investigation’s results are not released, the cost of the investigation should be made available to ensure the utmost transparency. Soto said he did not know what the investigation cost, but that because the investigation moved quickly, “the costs are not going to be high.”
Soto said this incident will not be reported to the Texas Education Agency.
“Everyone that follows the news probably understands what happened, so TEA knows what we all know,” Soto said. “The process is managed here at the district level so everyone has witnessed our process and it has been very transparent.”
Castro previously worked in or with Dallas, Kingsville, Lewisville, and San Antonio ISDs. Open records requests revealed no formal complaints were filed against him in any of those districts.