The state is set to install a monitor at the South San Antonio Independent School District.
The state is set to install a monitor at the South San Antonio Independent School District. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The South San Antonio Independent School District board of trustees will be placed under the supervision of a state-appointed monitor following a two-year state investigation, according to a letter sent Tuesday from Texas Education Agency officials to the superintendent and board president.

In a final investigative report also issued Tuesday, TEA 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 changing 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 letter.

“The result was a process which provided insufficient opportunity for the Superintendent or his staff to provide input outside of collecting information and preparing reports requested by the Board for the purposes of informing individual trustees and consultants hired by the Board,” the letter states.

The TEA has not announced who will serve as the monitor. The person will work 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 reporting back to the agency and 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.

If the district does not correct the issues identified in the report, the TEA could investigate South San ISD again, which could lead to further sanctions for the district, the letter states. South San officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Unlike a conservator, a monitor does not have the authority to override board votes or direct the superintendent to take action. South San ISD must pay the monitor $85 an hour, plus any necessary travel expenses.

Since the investigation concluded in May, a series of events have occurred within the district that have not been formally investigated, according to the final report.

“As a result, any findings of any violations of law occurring after the release of the preliminary report are reserved,” the report states.

The TEA started investigating South San ISD in April 2019, citing concerns about dysfunction in board governance. The agency received multiple complaints from undisclosed 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.

Since then, South San ISD has seen two district leaders leave. Superintendent Alexandro Flores resigned his position after repeatedly clashing with some board members. Interim Superintendent Dolores Sendejo, who served as the district’s chief academic officer, filled the position until the board hired Marc Puig in May 2020.

The state previously intervened in South San ISD, installing a conservator in the district in February 2016 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 covered education for the San Antonio Report.