San Benito superintendent’s profile has been removed from district website

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San Benito CISD Superintendent Theresa Servellon is seen at a regular school board meeting on Aug. 15, 2023. The board of trustees, on a 4-3 vote, suspended Servellon Sept. 8, a year after the past school board hired her. (Courtesy: San Benito CISD/YouTube)

SAN BENITO — Two weeks after the San Benito school district’s new board of trustees suspended her, officials have pulled Superintendent Theresa Servellon’s profile from the district’s website, sparking questions surrounding her future here.

Since Sept. 8, Servellon has remained on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of her case.

In instances in which employees are placed on paid suspension, the district determines its actions on a case-by-case basis, including employees’ reinstatements or terminations.

In the superintendent’s case, Servellon has two years remaining on her contract paying her an annual salary of $203,400.

Late last week, district officials removed her profile from the district’s website, replacing it with the profile of Alfredo “Fred” Perez, the district’s migrant and federal programs director, now serving as acting superintendent.

Removal questioned

On Facebook, Servellon’s supporters are questioning the district’s decision to remove her profile while she remains employed as superintendent.

“Ms. Theresa Servellon’s picture has been removed from the district website,” Rosalinda Garcia, a real estate agent who supports Servellon, posted. “Someone sure needs her gone!”

In response, Olivia Zepeda Pedraza questioned the district’s removal of Servellon’s profile, noting school board members have not terminated her employment.

“Oh my. Like you said, she hasn’t been fired,” she posted. “Why is it so pressing that she be removed?”

In an interview, school board President Orlando Lopez said he was unaware Servellon’s profile had been removed from the website.

During a special meeting Sept. 8., Lopez and board members Rudy Corona, Ariel Cruz-Vela and Alex Reyna voted to place Servellon on paid administrative leave.

“I stand behind what I vote for,” Lopez said in an interview. “My priorities are the kids, the district and the staff.”

For weeks, the new school board had been preparing to conduct Servellon’s first job performance evaluation, marking her first year in office, as required in her contract, before the board’s majority voted to place her on paid administrative leave.

Meanwhile, district officials have declined comment on Servellon’s suspension, describing it as a “personnel matter,” district spokeswoman Isabel Gonzalez stated.

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

The San Benito Consolidated Independent School District John F. Barron Administration building is pictured Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, in San Benito. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

The contract

On Tuesday, Lopez declined to disclose Servellon’s future with the district.

In September 2022, the past school board’s majority appointed Servellon to the superintendent’s position, signing her to a three-year contract paying an annual salary of $203,400 after she had served about six months as interim superintendent.

Under her contract, the agreement could be terminated based on Servellon’s and the school board’s mutual consent.

“This contract may be terminated by the mutual agreement of the superintendent and the board in writing upon such terms and conditions as may be mutually agreed upon,” the contract states.

The contract also allows board members to dismiss Servellon “for good cause.”

“The board may dismiss the superintendent during the terms of the contract for good cause in accordance with the Texas Education Code Sections 21.211, 21.212 (d), board policy and any reason constituting good cause under Texas law,” the contract states.

Based on her contract, the school board would apparently buy out Servellon’s contract, paying her two years’ worth of salary plus benefits, if trustees terminate the contract without cause.

“If the superintendent is not terminated for cause, the parties agree that the district shall pay the superintendent a lump-sum payment to fully compensate the superintendent for the entire value of all salary, medical and health benefits, all stipends to include longevity stipend and the supplemental payments to the teacher retirement system of Texas due under the remaining term of this contract,” the contract states.

“In addition, the district shall reimburse the superintendent for all reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees incurred by the superintendent to enforce this contract in the event superintendent is successful in the enforcement of this contract as enforced by a court of competent jurisdiction. The board’s failure to renew or extend the term of the superintendent’s contract shall not trigger this clause … The lump-sum payment shall be made within 30 days of the final disposition finding that the superintendent’s contract was not terminated for cause as stated above. If the lump-sum payment is not made within 30 days, interest on the unpaid amount will become due and owing at the rate of 5% per month until paid.”

The San Benito Consolidated Independent School District John F. Barron Administration building is pictured Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, in San Benito. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

Leadership questioned

Since the past school board’s majority appointed Servellon to the superintendent’s position, Lopez, Corona and Cruz-Vela have questioned some of her actions.

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 new 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 a $40 million bond-funded construction project amid questions surrounding two buildings’ foundations. Meanwhile, some board members have claimed Servellon has withheld district information from them.

Servellon on Tuesday did not respond to a message requesting comment.

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

Previously, she 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.