The Texas Education Agency has denied the South San Antonio Independent School District board of trustee’s request not to be placed under the supervision of a state-appointed monitor following a two-year state investigation, agency officials wrote to the superintendent and board president Thursday.

Former South San Antonio ISD Superintendent Abelardo “Abe” Saavedra will serve as the monitor, starting immediately, according to the TEA letter. The district must pay him $85 an hour, plus travel expenses.

TEA officials issued their final investigative report Aug. 31, announcing the assignment of a monitor. Investigators found that school board members failed to cooperate with the superintendent and acted outside of their authority by contacting district staff to seek information and discuss district business, such as disciplinary issues and changes to board agendas. Board members also demonstrated overreach of their duties by contacting vendors, consultants, and other educational organizations on the district’s behalf without informing the superintendent, according to the report.

South San ISD requested an informal review of the decision to install a monitor on Sept. 14. District officials did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday.

As the monitor, Saavedra is tasked with working with the board and district “to identify issues that led to the noncompliance and report to the agency on the development of a corrective action plan to address the issues,” according to the letter. That includes ensuring the board adopts policies that delineate trustee and superintendent duties, completes TEA-approved governance training, and presents the required policies at a public board meeting.

Unlike a conservator, a monitor does not have the authority to override board votes or direct the superintendent to take action.

From January 2014 to October 2018, Saavedra served as South San ISD superintendent, according to his Texas A&M University online profile. Saavedra is a professor of practice in the university’s education department. He also previously led Houston ISD from 2004 to 2009 and Corpus Christi ISD from 1993 to 2000.

The TEA started investigating South San ISD in April 2019, citing concerns about dysfunction in board governance. The agency received multiple complaints from anonymous sources that alleged the board was acting outside its authority by directing district administrators on day-to-day operations and impeding the superintendent’s duties. In December 2019, the TEA expanded its investigation to examine how the district handles contracts.

The state previously intervened in South San ISD in February 2016, installing a conservator after an investigation found issues with board governance and financial management. In 2018, the state removed the conservator, citing efforts by the board to act in the best interests of its students.

Brooke Crum

Brooke Crum is the San Antonio Report's education reporter.