Brownsville ISD to start search for new superintendent

The Brownsville ISD school board meeting room in the district's Administration Building is seen in this undated photo. (Courtesy: Brownsville ISD)
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The wheels have already begun to turn in a long established process for the Brownsville Independent School District to hire a new superintendent of schools.

When McAllen ISD on Monday named BISD Superintendent Rene Gutierrez the lone finalist to be superintendent there, it set in motion a 21-day waiting period before it can begin contract negotiations with Gutierrez.

“First and foremost we have to wait the 21 days. He’s still officially our employee. So we have to get an interim superintendent and we have options for that as well. We can get somebody within or hire out,” Jessica B. Gonzalez, the BISD board president said Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, Gonzalez issued a statement praising Gutierrez’s leadership and his role in guiding BISD to an A rating from the Texas Education Agency.

“I would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Dr. Gutiérrez for his unwavering commitment to our students, staff, and community. Under his guidance, our district achieved an “A” rating, even amidst the unprecedented challenges posed by the global pandemic and statewide debates about the future of public education. His leadership has been instrumental in our successes, and we wish him the very best in his future endeavors,” the statement reads.

Later Gonzalez posted a special meeting of the BISD Board of Trustees for 5:30 p.m. Monday to consider the board’s next steps in hiring a new superintendent.

“We need to all sit down and just have that important conversation of what our next steps are going to be and it is going to be to hire an interim first, and we need to talk about who are we going to get to do our search. Is it going to be us? Is it going to be a firm? That’s something that we need to decide,” Gonzalez said.

Regarding the interim, “we can get a list, you know, from each other, or just from people saying ‘Hey, I’m interested’ and then that’s where we all talk about it together and say are we going to go off this list. It will have to be behind closed doors just because it involves personnel. Any decision will be made outside. I don’t think we’re going to name an interim Monday afternoon but we could,” she said.

There are qualified candidates in and outside of the district, she added

“I go back to we all need to sit down together and decide what is best for the district as a whole. … We kind of can’t do anything yet because we’re in the 21 days,” she said.

BISD Superintendent Rene Gutierrez addresses students who participated in the LEAD anti-vaping diversion program on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, during a ceremony at the Buchanan Fine Arts Auditorium. (Gary Long | The Brownsville Herald)

Gutierrez is paid a salary of $354,128 on a contract that the board extended through June 2025 by a 4-3 vote on June 28.

When BISD hired Gutierrez, the board used the Texas Association of School Board to do the search.

“That’s something we could do but we need to talk about it as a whole … so that we can all sit down and just have that important conversation of what our next steps are going to be,” Gonzalez said.

Gutierrez is a 1983 graduate of McAllen High School, earned an associate degree from Texas Southmost College in Brownsville, a bachelor’s degree from Pan American University at Brownsville, a master’s degree from Pan American University in Edinburg and a doctorate from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

He replaced former superintendent Esperanza Zendejas, who now leads the Region Two Educational Service Center in Corpus Christi.

The fact that Gutierrez was under consideration for McAllen superintendent has been a subject of speculation for weeks at BISD.

Now, the district and the board should concentrate on the important job of educating students, board member Carlos Elizondo said.

“The board needs to concentrate on bringing the morale back to the school district and one of our priorities is to allow our teachers to teach, without them being concerned about retaliation,” Elizondo said.

He advocated following input from teachers and staff in choosing the next superintendent.

In McAllen, the board president there expressed reservations about paying Gutierrez the salary he was being paid in Brownsville.

But Gonzalez said his salary is in line with what superintendents are paid in Texas’ largest districts, of which BISD is one.

“We just went to a conference a couple of weeks ago up in Dallas and it’s amazing. They’re using our scores, our test results to show the other districts that it is possible. … They were showing the other districts that if Brownsville ISD can do it they can do it, too. At the end of the day, if you have the passion you can make those scores happen,” she said.