This article has been updated.
The South San Antonio school board’s failure to meet for almost two months “created monumental problems,” according to reports from the district’s state-appointed monitor, that include the mounting costs of paying two superintendents.
South San’s school board did not meet for seven weeks because too few board members attended the meetings in person to constitute a quorum, stalling district operations that are the board’s responsibility. At least four trustees must be present in person to meet.
In March, interim Superintendent Henry Yzaguirre authorized transferring money from the district’s general fund to its self-insurance fund to cover an almost-overdue payment. Transferring the funds is the board’s duty and not the superintendent’s, said TEA monitor Abe Saavedra.
Trustees met and approved the money transfer after Yzaguirre authorized the transaction. The education code states that a school board must amend the budget before spending the money, said Joy Baskin, director of legal services at the Texas Association of School Boards, in March.
“The failure of the board to conduct business for six weeks has created monumental problems for the interim superintendent and the district,” Saavedra wrote in his February report to the TEA.
The board did not meet until March 10, seven weeks after its January meeting.
One of those “monumental problems” includes South San continuing to pay two superintendents, Saavedra noted in his report. The board voted to suspend Superintendent Marc Puig on Dec. 6, pending the outcome of an investigation into a private conversation that was picked up by a live microphone. Since then, the board has taken no action to resolve the situation.
In the past five months, South San ISD has paid almost $200,000 to employ both Puig and Yzaguirre, which is equivalent to one superintendent’s annual salary. The district has paid Puig about $93,750 and Yzaguirre about $93,953 since December, totaling $187,703.
While Puig is suspended, South San must continue to pay him about $865 a day, based on his annual salary of $225,000. The school board approved a contract extension and 12% pay raise for Puig in May.
Meanwhile, the school board agreed to pay Yzaguirre $6,195 for services rendered from Dec. 7-15 and $885.96 per day after that. His contract states that Yzaguirre will receive this daily rate from Dec. 16 to June 30, or “until the district reinstates the current superintendent or enters into a contract with another.” For those 119 days, Yzaguirre will be paid no more than $105,309.73, excluding benefits.
The district is also having to compensate Saavedra. In February and March, Saavedra worked about 21.4 hours, earning more than $1,819. South San ISD must pay him $85 per hour, plus travel expenses, according to a letter from the TEA.
In his February report, Saavedra wrote that the board’s failure to meet meant at least 14 teachers were working without contracts, a violation of the state education code, because the board hadn’t approved them. However, Saavedra told the San Antonio Report on Thursday that the interim superintendent was responsible for issuing the contracts.
The TEA appointed Saavedra in September after a two-year investigation into South San ISD found that board members failed to cooperate with the superintendent and acted outside of their authority.
The agency opened another investigation into South San ISD on Nov. 29, just three months after concluding the previous inquiry. State Education Commissioner Mike Morath authorized the new investigation in response to complaints the TEA had received about the school board interfering with the superintendent’s duties.
This article has been updated to correctly state that the interim superintendent was responsible for issuing contracts to 14 teachers who were hired in the summer or fall of 2021. A previous version of this story attributed the lack of contracts for those teachers to the board’s failure to meet, with monitor Abe Saavedra’s report to the Texas Education Agency as the source for that information. Saavedra has since corrected his previous comments — read the full story on his update here.