Superintendent Pedro Martinez left the San Antonio Independent School District for Chicago Public Schools two months ago, and to date, parents have yet to see a timeline to hire a permanent leader. SAISD has been in a state of instability since March 2020 and with Martinez’s departure, the district is even more vulnerable. What’s more, Martinez is taking with him two key players, the district’s chief academic and IT officers. 

As parents concerned about the future of the district where our children are learning, we need to see better communication from district leaders and a clear plan to hire a new superintendent who is committed to engaging parents as partners in education. 

While Martinez undoubtedly led SAISD to make significant gains, those gains are tenuous without deeper system changes. Stronger, more inclusive communication with parents and families is one of those necessary changes.

A July San Antonio Express-News commentary highlighted the district’s failure to adequately engage the community in its application for federal pandemic-relief funding. The authors stated, “SAISD posted details of its formal plan online before it was shared in various ‘stakeholder meetings’ May 24 to June 11 — some of which only a few parents were able to attend — and merely sought feedback on their predetermined plan.” 

The selection of a new superintendent provides the perfect opportunity to change course. For too long community members have served as passive participants rather than as active partners whose voices impacted decision making. It’s time for the district to start listening to families and engaging them as partners in the education process. 

Through our work at MindShiftED, we’ve learned that parents want to be involved in the key decisions that impact their children’s education. MindShiftED is a movement led by parents and caregivers who imagine a day when San Antonio has the best schools in the world. We have been on the front lines of parent empowerment by meeting with hundreds of caregivers, organizing board meeting participation, and educating cohorts of parents on the San Antonio education landscape. Our driving focus is to ensure that parents, grandparents and caregivers have the tools and knowledge they need to effectively advocate for their children and their community. 

We urge the board of trustees to hire a leader who sees parents as investors, not as afterthoughts. We expect the next administration to commit to creating a seat for parents at the tables where decisions are made. And we ask the board of trustees to welcome parent and family input into the selection of the next leader for our community’s schools.

Beyond the selection of the district’s new superintendent, SAISD must engage with its families so that parents and caregivers can serve as partners in educating their children. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has made significant investments in tools to help parents. Its website offers a user-friendly interface with school ratings, performance indicators, and school funding information. Parents are given detailed information to help them understand their child’s testing scores. Unfortunately, many parents aren’t aware of these tools — which could be remedied by communication from the district about the resources available to parents. The TEA’s tools are just one example of a way to foster collaboration between parents and educators. 

In addition to prioritizing input from parents, the next leader must have a record of promoting academic achievement for all groups of children. SAISD has come too far to squander hard-earned gains made in recent years under Martinez’s leadership. 

As we embark upon a new era of school leadership, it is imperative that we build authentic relationships with parents and bring them to the table in a meaningful capacity. We believe the future success of this city depends on an educated and skilled populace, and collaboration among the board of trustees, the new administration, parents and teachers is key to ensuring every SAISD child is provided a quality education.

Joe Cantu

Joe Cantu is co-founder and executive director of MindShiftED.

Maribel Gardea

Maribel Gardea is co-founder and executive director of MindShiftED.