Harlandale Independent School District trustees faced a laundry list of agenda items Monday night, tackling issues like replacing trustee David Abundis, who resigned last week, and determining compensation and responsibilities for interim superintendent Samantha Gallegos.
Trustees voted to accept applications for Abundis’ replacement but declined to provide any information on Gallegos’ compensation or her new responsibilities. They simply voted to proceed as discussed in closed session. Gallegos replaced longtime district leader Rey Madrigal after the board voted to begin termination proceedings in early July.
After the meeting, board President Ricardo Moreno told reporters that details of Gallegos’ compensation plan would likely be available Tuesday.
The board also voted to hold a special called town hall meeting roughly a month after Commissioner of Education Mike Morath notified the school district of his decision to suspend the powers of the elected board of trustees and replace the governing body with an appointed board of managers. This decision came after a Texas Education Agency (TEA) investigation found board dysfunction and violations of State law and local board policy.
The TEA also notified the district that Morath will appoint a conservator and a new superintendent.
Harlandale’s board has been criticized for not giving community members an opportunity to voice their opinions at regular meetings. Moreno said this town hall will allow the community to speak and “voice their commentary whether it is positive or negative.” The meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 1 at Harlandale High School.
Earlier in July, the board voted to appeal Morath’s decision through a formal review in Austin.
Moreno announced that Harlandale ISD would likely meet with the commissioner in Austin at 11 a.m. Aug. 7. Trustees have not publicly disclosed what arguments they would make to contest the findings.
In a letter sent to TEA requesting a review, however, attorney Kevin O’Hanlon disputed individual conclusions from the TEA investigation.
“There is no legitimate basis to conclude that lowering the District’s accreditation status, appointing a Conservator and/or a Board of Managers is in the best interests of the present and future students or voters of the District, as asserted by the TEA Staff in its Final Report and adopted by the Commissioner,” he wrote.
At Monday night’s meeting, just a week after Abundis resigned, trustees voted to accept his resignation letter and open applications to appoint a successor to serve the remainder of his term. Applications will be accepted for 10 business days, starting Wednesday, July 24. The board’s other option would have been to call for a special election to fill Abundis’ seat.
In resigning, Abundis cited the intense time commitment of serving on the board and a desire to spend more time with his family as reasons for his departure. Abundis represented District 4, which spans the southeast corner of the district and includes the Early College High School. His term expires in 2021.
Should Harlandale’s appeal fail, Morath will appoint a board of managers from a pool of applicants. Sitting trustees would not be eligible to serve on the board. Applications are open for those interested in serving as a manager.