San Benito school board places superintendent on paid leave

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SAN BENITO — The San Benito school district’s new board of trustees, on a 4-3 vote, suspended Superintendent Theresa Servellon Sept. 8, a year after the past school board hired her.

After a special noon meeting’s two-hour closed-door session, board members Orlando Lopez, Rudy Corona, Ariel Cruz-Vela and Alex Reyna voted to place Servellon on paid administrative leave, declining comment on the reason behind the suspension, describing the case as a “personnel matter.”

“Every decision that I make is focused on the best interest of the school district, our kids and our staff,” Lopez, the board’s president, said after the meeting.

Meanwhile, board members Oscar Medrano, Mario Silva and Frutoso Gomez cast dissenting votes.

The meeting’s agenda called for “discussion and consideration of superintendent’s duties/responsibilities and the superintendent’s contract/employment agreement.”

After the meeting, Servellon, who was apparently absent, did not respond to a message requesting comment while district spokeswoman Isabel Gonzalez declined comment, citing “personnel matters.”

“Because the district does not comment on personnel matters, no further comment will be made regarding Ms. Servellon’s employment status,” she stated.

Meanwhile, Alfredo “Fred” Perez, the district’s migrant and federal programs director, is serving as acting superintendent, Gonzalez stated.

Perez has served as a special education teacher, a special education coordinator, San Benito High School’s assistant principal, Miller Jordan Middle School’s principal and Gateway to Graduation Academy principal, she stated.

Servellon’s supporters

Superintendent Theresa Servellon

During the meeting’s public comment period, Chuy Aguilera, owner of Chuys Custom Sports, told board members “you’re only here to destroy a person’s life.”

“You guys want the projects to continue,” he said, an apparent reference to the $40 million bond-funded construction project Servellon’s administration ordered hauled about six months ago after an architect questioned two buildings’ foundations.

Taking the podium, Julian Rios, the Chuy’s Custom Sports’ manager whom Lopez defeated in the May election, told board members Servellon has “knowledge, experience, ability and courage to do what is needed for student success.”

Pointing to officials’ assignments of five principals to San Benito High School in the last five years, Rios called for the district’s “stability.”

“Let’s put politics aside and put students first,” he told board members. “You’ll waste tax money humiliating the superintendent. You will be creating more instability and inconsistency.”

Meanwhile, Rosalinda Garcia, a real estate agent, told board members “the superintendent is very knowledgeable and has extensive experience.”

Board majority’s concerns

Earlier this year, Servellon’s leadership became an issue during a bitter election campaign.

In the hot May 6 election, voters flipped the board’s balance of power, returning Lopez and Corona to office, leading a new majority, including Cruz-Vela and Reyna, to take the board’s control.

During the last year, members of the board’s majority have questioned Servellon’s actions on issues including San Benito High School’s assignments to the principal’s position and her administration’s decision to order a halt to the $40 million construction project amid questions surrounding two buildings’ foundations.

The new school board has been preparing to conduct Servellon’s first job performance evaluation.


Before taking the district’s top administrative job, Servellon had served as the South San Antonio school district’s chief academic officer.

Previously, she had served more than 20 years with the San Benito school district, taking a job as director of secondary curriculum and instruction after working as a principal and teacher.

Servellon holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in educational leadership and administration from Texas State University.