The South San Antonio Independent School District board of trustees welcomed two new board members this week, but whether they are legally entitled to serve on the board remains in question.

Four board members attended the special called meeting Tuesday in which trustees voted to appoint replacements for Connie Prado in District 5 and Gilbert Rodriguez in District 6, both of whom resigned from the board. Ernesto Arrellano Jr., board president, and trustees Stacey Alderete, Homer Flores and Rodriguez attended the meeting. Board Secretary Gina Villagomez and Vice President Shirley Ibarra were absent.

But as Arrellano read the agenda item to appoint Prado’s replacement, Rodriguez got up from his seat on the dais and walked out of the boardroom, calling into question whether the board had a quorum when the three remaining trustees voted to appoint Gina Rovello to the seat vacated by Prado.

Before Flores could finish making the motion to appoint Rovello, Arrellano interrupted him to ask if someone would second the motion, as Rodriguez walked across the boardroom. Alderete quickly seconded the motion, and the three board members voted in favor of appointing Rovello as the door slammed behind Rodriguez.

While the board’s attorney advised trustees they could continue the meeting, state-appointed monitor Abe Saavedra said it is unclear whether the board had a quorum at the time of the vote to appoint Rovello. The Texas Education Agency appointed Saavedra to oversee the board in late September after a two-year investigation into the board and district.

“I think the argument is going to be must he be sitting at the dais or if he’s within the room when the board meeting is taking place?” Saavedra said.

Because this is a legal question, Saavedra said he would report the issue to the TEA and seek the agency’s guidance.

“TEA is aware and looking into the matter,” an agency spokesman said.

Saavedra said Rodriguez submitted a letter of resignation in February to then-board secretary Alderete, but that letter somehow got lost. District staff recently recovered the letter, and because more than eight days had passed since the board received the resignation letter, Rodriguez’s resignation was effective even though the board did not vote to accept it.

A board vacancy becomes effective either the date the board accepts the resignation or the eighth day after the board receives it, according to the Texas Association of School Boards.

Prado announced May 18 that she would be stepping down from the seven-member board at the end of June after 24 years. She has been a mainstay of the South San board, which has for several years drawn scrutiny from the TEA for its internal workings and frequent infighting. 

In November, the agency opened another investigation into the board based on complaints it has interfered with the superintendent’s duties, three months after closing a separate inquiry that resulted in the placement of a state-appointed monitor. 

Currently, the district is being run by interim Superintendent Henry Yzaguirre, who was installed in December after Superintendent Marc Puig, South San’s eighth superintendent since 2010, was suspended pending an inquiry into a conversation he had with a trustee that was caught by a live microphone. Puig resigned June 21.

After recessing to swear in Rovello, an alumna of South San who works in health care, the four board members unanimously voted to appoint Cyndi Ramirez to replace Rodriguez as the District 6 trustee. Ramirez said this is her third time serving on the board and that she works at Harlandale High School.

“I’ve been in education for 23 years, so I’m very familiar with the way the district’s run,” she said. “I hope that today’s going to be the beginning of a brand new South San.”

The board also voted to call a Nov. 8 general election for single-member District 1, 4 and 6, as well as a special election for District 5. The last day for candidates to file for a place on the ballot is Aug. 22.

Brooke Crum covered education for the San Antonio Report.