San Antonio Independent School District interim Superintendent Robert Jaklich showed that he is no stranger to the classroom Thursday morning.
On his second day on the job, the veteran educator visited a Wilson Elementary kindergarten class, where he read All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold. As he flipped through pages of the book, he asked students questions about what he had just read, and they eagerly and enthusiastically answered.
“What does it mean to try your best?” Jaklich asked the kindergarteners sitting on the rug in the front of the classroom.
One boy hoisted his hand high in the air. When Jaklich called on him, he answered that doing your best means trying “to be a good person.”
After finishing the book, Jaklich raised a pinky finger and made a pinky promise that he would try his best as interim superintendent. In turn, the students pinky-promised that they would do their “very best every day.”
The SAISD Board of Trustees hired Jaklich on Sept. 21 to temporarily replace former Superintendent Pedro Martinez, whose last day with the district was Tuesday. Martinez was selected to lead Chicago Public Schools earlier this month.
Jaklich makes $1,200 per day as interim superintendent. He has agreed to remain in the position until the board hires a permanent replacement, which likely will be next spring, board President Christina Martinez said. The board plans to start looking for a superintendent search firm in November and will seek input from stakeholders in December.
At Wilson Elementary, Martinez said she was grateful Jaklich accepted the board’s invitation to apply for the interim superintendent job.
“We could not be in a better place to keep doing the work that we are doing right now, which is keeping our kids safe, bringing them back into school where we know they need to be, supporting our teachers who are working so hard throughout this pandemic that is not anywhere near being over yet, and of course, supporting all of our staff here in SAISD,” she said.
Both Martinez and Jaklich said they plan to keep the district’s mask mandate and staff COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place, despite Gov. Greg Abbott’s August executive order. The order prohibits governmental entities, such as school districts, from requiring masks and COVID-19 vaccines. SAISD is currently battling the state in court over its staff vaccine mandate, after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the district Sept. 9.
“We are not giving up this fight,” Martinez said.
About 90% of SAISD staff is already vaccinated, Martinez said. The deadline for staff to get vaccinated is Oct. 15.
Jaklich faces other challenges as interim superintendent. Like many districts, SAISD has a staffing shortage in various departments, including transportation and teachers. Jaklich said there are roughly 100 teacher vacancies right now but that the district is working to recruit new teachers and to entice retired teachers to come back.
“This is a tough time to be in public education,” he said. “But the most important thing [is], at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself two questions: Are we doing things right? And are we doing the right thing?”
Being able to answer those two questions with a “yes” will help ensure the district is moving in the right direction, Jaklich said. With 37 years of experience in public education, Jaklich feels prepared to continue that work as long as it takes SAISD to find a new superintendent. His first steps involve listening to the needs of district staff and SAISD families.
“I have one more ride into the sunset, one more opportunity to give back to all the people that gave to me, and this was the great chance for me to do that,” he said. “My job is to continue the excellence that has been SAISD.”
Jaklich began his education career in 1981 as a teacher at Clark High School in Northside ISD. He moved to Holmes High School, where he taught and coached basketball for nine years. He served as an assistant principal at Clark and a vice principal at Holmes. Jaklich later went to Harlandale ISD, where he worked as a middle school principal and a high school principal.
After that, he served as the human resources department director for six years before becoming superintendent. Jaklich worked as Harlandale’s superintendent from 2008 to 2012 and as Victoria ISD’s superintendent from 2012 to 2018, when he retired. For the past three years, he’s worked with a superintendent search firm in Austin, JG Consulting.