New superintendent Marc Puig joined South San Antonio ISD as its leader Monday after the board voted to hire him last week.
The district leader spoke with the Rivard Report in late May after trustees named him the lone finalist for the superintendent position.
He described what he saw in South San’s board as a “deep desire to empower children … to give them the permission and skills to flourish in school.” That’s what attracted him to apply for the job opening in South San ISD.
A TEA-appointed monitor regularly criticized the South San board last year for an inability to focus on student outcomes. Monitor Laurie Elliott repeatedly recommended the state agency appoint a conservator, who would have the ability to override board votes.
The relationship between a school board and the district superintendent is a marriage and the values need to be consistent between both parties, Puig said. In South San ISD, Puig sees potential for a healthy relationship.
“What I fell in love with is the genuine, authentic desire of seven board members to serve children,” Puig said. “That’s something very rare. You see this unity of purpose, this willingness to put the entire system, and teachers first.”
Assessing the district for its academics, finances, and board dynamics, Puig said he felt South San was on the right path.
The State graded South San ISD a C letter grade in 2019 and rated one campus as failing. This was an improvement from a D and five failing campuses the previous year. The new district leader said he felt systems had been implemented to continue this trajectory.
Financially, there is still room to improve, Puig said, adding that he felt South San was in a good spot for the challenges faced in the past five years. He also commended strategic investments like the board’s decision to add a P-TECH campus, or career-focused high school, at West Campus High School.
Puig described himself as “the guy to go out and assess the problem and try to come up with solutions.” He said he will take on an active role in resolving the open Texas Education Agency investigation into the board dysfunction and the district’s contract process.
Puig serves on Commissioner of Education Mike Morath’s accountability policy advisory committee with 19 other superintendents. He described a strong relationship with TEA officials and his own understanding of the state agency’s mission and values.
“I’d like to reach out to TEA and really put to rest immediately some of these things that are happening and get some answers,” Puig said. “Let’s put it behind us and hit the reset button, and as my dad said, ‘Vámonos.’ Let’s start serving the kids.”
Speaking about how he will approach a working relationship with the board, Puig said he feels three things are important to understand: There is a common vision focused on children; the role of the board and the superintendent are “distinctly different” but the roles of both are powerful; and everyone should commit to being learners.
Puig replaces Dolores Sendejo, the district’s chief academic officer, who has been serving as interim superintendent since the board bought out Alexandro Flores’ superintendent contract last September.
Flores and the board’s relationship soured after the superintendent opposed a board-majority plan to reopen Athens Elementary, Kazen Middle School, and West Campus High School.
Puig comes to South San from Beeville ISD, a 3,300-student school district located about an hour-and-a-half south of San Antonio. Beeville’s board hired Puig to be superintendent in 2016, but Puig had previously served as superintendent of San Benito CISD, Culberson County-Allamoore ISD, and Luling ISD.
San Benito CISD was a district where Puig described having inconsistent values with the board. He submitted his resignation roughly six months after starting his role there, according to local news reports.
“There, it was a marriage that maybe perhaps the values may have been different, and that’s OK,” Puig said. “You learn to live with that and then you decide, ‘OK, where do I want to pivot and start my next journey?'”
From San Benito CISD, Puig went to lead Beeville ISD.
He began his teaching career in Rio Bravo, near Laredo, educating his students primarily in Spanish. Soon after, he returned to his hometown of Dallas to teach in Dallas ISD.
“I’m a school teacher at heart,” Puig said. “And I’m on special assignment right now as a superintendent.”
In his first months as superintendent, Puig said he will be focused on making sure students receive continuous instruction from the summer into the fall.