The Edgewood ISD school board.
The Edgewood ISD school board. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Edgewood Independent School District’s governing board added three more elected trustees during the district’s Tuesday night board meeting.

The state education agency added Joseph Guerra, James Hernandez, and Stella Camacho to the governing board to help the district get closer to full elected governance. Camacho was appointed as a manager in May 2016, but elected to the board as a trustee in November 2018. There will be no change in her responsibilities.

The West Side district’s governing board has an unusual composition. In 2016, the state intervened in Edgewood because it found governance issues that left the elected board of trustees deadlocked on important decisions such as hiring a superintendent and filling a board vacancy.

The Texas Education Agency appointed five managers who took the place of the seven elected trustees. Last summer, Commissioner of Education Mike Morath began transitioning the district back to elected governance by adding two elected trustees, Edward Romero and Martha Castilla, to the board of five managers, creating a hybrid board.

Romero resigned less than four months later, and a manager, Timothy Payne, was appointed to fill the position. This left the board with six members – board president Roy Soto, Richard Santoyo, Frank Espinosa, Camacho, and Payne were the five managers and Castilla as the elected trustee.

On Tuesday night, Guerra and Camacho were sworn in as the new trustees; Hernandez will be sworn in at a later date due to a scheduling conflict. Santoyo will cycle off the board as part of the transition process.

Speaking about Santoyo’s tenure on the board, president Soto described the former manager as a “genuine and true servant leader.”

The new board will be comprised of seven members including Camacho, Soto, Espinosa, Payne, Castilla, Guerra, and Hernandez.

The TEA also plans to immediately appoint conservator Sharon Doughty to help facilitate the transition from appointed leadership to elected governance. This is a new step the TEA is implementing statewide to transition districts with boards of managers, according to an Edgewood press release.

“This is not a reflection of concerns specific to this transition, the current or elected boards, or Edgewood ISD in general,” Commissioner of Education Mike Morath wrote in a letter to the district last week. “Instead, this is a practice that will occur with boards of managers returning to local control.”

Doughty previously served as Edgewood’s conservator when the state first intervened in early 2016. She also was named a conservator to Natalia ISD in 2018, according to media reports.

The conservator will be responsible for overseeing the financial management and governance of the district, attending board meetings and executive session, directing the board as necessary, and overseeing the general administration of the district.

A TEA official told reporters after Tuesday’s meeting that Doughty will exercise a “light touch” on district matters. She will be in place to help streamline the transition and will remain in place following the restoration of the full elected board, said Jeff Cottrill, the TEA’s deputy commissioner of standards and engagement.

Guerra previously served on Edgewood’s board as the president but was not in office at the time of the TEA takeover. Camacho has three years of experience governing the district as a manager. Hernandez has never served on Edgewood’s governing board. He won his office in an unopposed election last November.

The final step to return Edgewood ISD to full elected governance will be for the remaining trustees, Dina Serrano and Luis Gomez, both elected in November 2018, to join the board.

Edgewood is expected to have a full governing board of seven elected trustees by May 2020.

The TEA recently announced Southside ISD, the other Bexar County district governed by a board of managers, also would undergo a transition process to return the district to elected governance. TEA officials announced Southside ISD would be governed entirely by a board of trustees by May 2022.

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Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.