The South San ISD board of trustees bought out Superintendent Alexandro Flores' contract. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The tumultuous relationship between a group of South San Antonio Independent School District trustees and Superintendent Alexandro Flores ended suddenly Tuesday night after the board bought out Flores’ contract and installed an interim superintendent. Details about the buyout agreement were not immediately available following the meeting.

Three board members in the minority voting coalition resigned in protest of recent board decisions, saying they felt their votes and voices had not been heard.

Chief Academic Officer Dolores Sendejo will take the reins from Flores, who was hired less than a year ago by a school board that included four different trustees than the ones who were on the board to see him depart. Flores was South San’s sixth superintendent since 2010. Sendejo will be the seventh.

Chief Academic Officer Dolores Sendejo was appointed interim Superintendent.

She will receive a stipend of $100 per day until a permanent superintendent is in place. She serves as the board president in Southside ISD, which is governed by a board of managers.

The moves by South San’s board come as the Texas Education Agency is investigating how South San trustees operate. The state education agency opened its investigation after receiving complaints that trustees were preventing the superintendent from doing his job, among other issues.

Three members of the seven-member board – Elda Flores, Louis Ybarra, and Mandy Martinez – resigned in protest of their opinions not being factored into board decisions.

Elda Flores, Ybarra, and Board President Connie Prado are the only current trustees who also were on the board at the time of the superintendent’s hiring. After the board hired Superintendent Flores last September, November elections brought in four new trustees.

Martinez was one of those newly elected trustees. At a previous meeting, she said she was recruited to run for the board because she had children who attended Kazen Middle School, a campus that closed down in 2017 and reopened this fall.

“I understand that the decision of the board, whether I agree or not, is still the decision of the board,” Martinez said. “That does not mean that I am not allowed to have an opinion. My voice holds no value here.”

Trustees Elda Flores and Ybarra both were elected in 2016 with the support of South San Kids First, an advocacy group representing concerned alumni and parents.

Elda Flores, who was an educator for 38 years, said she stepped off the board with a heavy heart, expressing concern over the departure of Superintendent Flores.

“This board has pushed out an excellent superintendent that this district needs at this time,” Elda Flores said. “He was not given the opportunity to lead. What does this say about our district? Seven superintendents in 10 years does not provide the stability needed in our district.”

Superintendent Flores could not be reached for comment, leaving the meeting as soon as the board adjourned proceedings.

“Dr. Flores thanks the present and past Board of Trustees for providing him with the opportunity to serve in the South San Antonio Independent School District,” a prepared district statement said. “A school district is measured by the commitment of the Board, staff, and community to its children and their achievements. This District is indeed so committed.”

The board vacancies mean the remaining four trustees can either appoint replacement board members or call for a special election. No decision was made following the resignations. Prado said it would likely come up at the next board meeting.

Majority board members, which include Prado and trustees Homer Flores, Gilbert Rodriguez, and Shirley Ibarra Pena, frequently butted heads with the superintendent over a plan to reopen three campuses in an expedited time frame.

Even though the superintendent opposed the plan, asking the board for more time to study the matter, the majority approved it and allocated $6 million in initial funding. Athens Elementary, Kazen Middle, and West Campus High School reopened for the start of the 2019-20 school year, but only about 450 students enrolled across the three campuses.

Majority board members (from left) Homer Flores, Connie Prado, Gilbert Rodriguez, and Shirley Ibarra Pena

“I wish him the best of luck and we just need to move forward,” Prado said after the vote.

Following the board vote to accept Flores’ resignation, Rodriguez said he felt that “change is always a good thing.”

Flores, whose contract was supposed to run through June 30, 2022, succeeded Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra, who came out of retirement to lead the district in 2014 but clashed frequently with members of the board.

Flores previously served as superintendent of Palacios ISD, located between Galveston and Corpus Christi, and interim superintendent of Natalia ISD, south of San Antonio. During Flores’ time overseeing South San, the district’s number of failing campuses dropped from five to one and the district’s overall grade rose from a D to a C in the State accountability system.

The board set Flores’ salary at $190,000 for 240 days of service. Per his contract, the board was supposed to evaluate Flores based on a list of annual goals and constraints the the two created together. This was to be the “central criteria on which the Superintendent’s performance [was] reviewed.” However, the board did not approve any evaluation for Flores prior to the separation agreement.

“On behalf of the entire District, the Board of Trustees expresses its sincere appreciation to Dr. Flores for his efforts while serving as Superintendent of this great school district and its wonderful students, parents, administrators, and for the many achievements and accomplishments of the entire District team during Dr. Flores’ tenure as Superintendent,” a prepared statement said.

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.