Weslaco school board mulls bringing Rivera back

WESLACO — Trustees of the Weslaco school district voted Monday to table an item that could bring long-time educator Richard Rivera back to the district in a temporary administrative capacity.

Rivera was ousted from his position as superintendent of Weslaco Independent School District in 2011. Later, Rivera was elected as a Weslaco trustee and was hired at Edcouch-Elsa ISD as superintendent. He left both of those positions last year.

The item the board opted to table Monday, a consultant agreement with Public School Partners, would have allowed that company to contract with administrators who would assist the district, current Superintendent Priscilla Canales said Monday.

Rivera, she said, would likely be the only person to join the district under that agreement.

Under that agreement, Rivera’s contract would run through Aug. 31 with an option to extend and would come with a relatively short 14-day notice of termination clause, Canales said. He would provide support for education/secondary attendance numbers, budgeting that goes with staffing allocations, improvement planning and other areas.

Hiring Rivera, Canales said, is a stopgap solution designed to fix an administrative staffing shortage at the district.

“We’re overloaded,” she said. “We’re behind in some areas, and you know, you have discussed some of them with me and I’ve discussed them with you.”

Canales described losing a valuable employee in December who helped lead secondary education and other departments. She said she envisions Rivera’s hiring as a way to ride out the end of the pandemic and the results of a forensic audit, which could be returned as soon as next month.

“It would be for a brief period of time to do that,”

Hiring from outside the district, even on a temporary basis, caused some hesitation on the board.

“I know that this is an administrative recommendation,” Trustee Marcos De Los Santos said. “But what I would like to see is that — we have a wealth of talent at our school district. We have a lot of individuals at different levels that, in some cases, they’ve been in campuses or departments or whatever the case may be for decades, if not more. Highly successful, locally, regionally and at the state level.”

De Los Santos said he’d rather see the position go to one of those individuals and said he didn’t believe the pending forensic audit should stop that from happening.

“I am one that thinks instead of focusing on consultants, we need to focus on our staff that’s already ready,” he said. “That’s ready to progress, that’s ready to step up, ready to fill in those voids.”

In the long run, Canales said, the administration would be more than happy to open those positions to current district employees.

“Once the forensic audit is over, you know we talked about reorg and looking at the structure,” she said. “It will lead to making important decisions about staffing and positions that may be needed with the data that we collect.”

The superintendent’s plea for administrative help did find some support on the board.

“I think it’s important because it’s going to help us finish the school year, but at the same time build on starting the new school year,” Board President Armando Cuellar said.

That support was not enough to approve the consultant agreement Monday.

Cuellar and Jaime Rodriguez voted against a motion tabling the agreement, while De Los Santos, Andrew Gonzalez, Isidoro Nieto, Jaclyn Sustaita and Jesse Treviño voted for it.