San Benito’s new school board launches superintendent search

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SAN BENITO — Following years of infighting sparking turnover at the school district’s top administrative office, the search is on for San Benito’s next superintendent.

After newly elected trustees took their oaths of office Wednesday, the new school board met in closed session before tapping the Texas Association of School Boards to conduct a statewide search, with trustees vowing to work together to bring stability to the district.

Orlando Lopez

On Thursday, school board President Orlando Lopez said trustees are planning to meet next week with officials of the nonprofit educational service agency, which is expected to charge about $10,000 to conduct the search.

“TASB historically has a pretty good track record as far as superintendents are concerned,” he said in an interview. “It’s a reputable association that provides its customers, like us, with applicants because they have a state-wide network. They’re very thorough and methodical in that process. TASB will provide the transparency and thoroughness to provide information and applicants for the board to select our next superintendent.”

Lopez said members of the new school board are planning to work together to select the right candidate for the job.

After their landslide victories in the May 4 election, incoming board members Crystal Hernandez and Israel “Buddy” Villarreal said the hiring of the district’s next superintendent topped their list of priorities.

“It’s a united board,” Lopez said. “Board members will be involved as far as the employment of the next superintendent. I’m extremely excited with these new board members and their positive attitudes as far as moving the district forward in a positive manner.”

Like Hernandez and Villarreal, Lopez said he wants to hire a superintendent who can bring stability to the district’s administration.

“The main goal is to find a superintendent and bring stability to the district to continue moving forward,” he said. “We need a superintendent that has a vision, someone nurturing our staff in a positive work environment, focusing on our kids and what our district needs striving to move forward.”

As part of its job, TASB offers its Executive Search Services’ “expert search team” to help the state’s school districts hunt for superintendents “with vision, goals and experience to lead,” the agency’s website states.

“The Texas Association of School Board Executive Search Services has been building successful leadership teams in Texas school districts for more than 30 years,” the agency states.

“We know the education landscape and are dedicated to supporting districts as they search for exceptional superintendents with lofty standards and who will ensure success and excellence for your students, district staff and community,” the website states. “In addition to searches we conduct for Texas districts, ESS works and builds relationships with superintendent candidates seeking new leadership roles and supports districts that want to conduct their own searches, sharing useful information for conducting the process.”

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)

The school board’s search comes nearly eight months after past Superintendent Theresa Servellon, who board Vice President Ariel Cruz-Vela soundly defeated in this month’s election, resigned three weeks after the board’s past majority suspended her following a year on the job.

At the time of her resignation last September, Servellon, with two years left on her contract, was drawing a salary of $203,400.

In March 2022, a previous board majority hired Servellon, a former longtime district administrator, to serve as interim superintendent.

Earlier that month, former Superintendent Nate Carman resigned to take the top job with the Socorro school district in El Paso.

In September 2022, majority members hired Servellon, signing her to a three-year contract, following a controversial search process.

While the previous majority scrapped plans to hire TASB to conduct the search, members of the board’s previous minority, which included Lopez, Cruz-Vela and trustee Rudy Corona, argued they were left out of the selection process, claiming candidates’ names were withheld.

In 2017, a previous school board in which Lopez served hired Carman before signing him to a four-year contract paying a salary of $202,776 along with a $1,800 monthly stipend in 2019.

Earlier that year, Superintendent Adrian Vega resigned after more than a year on the job.

In 2016, Vega replaced former Superintendent Marc Puig, who served about six months before resigning.

In 2015, Puig replaced former Superintendent Antonio Limon, who had served in the position since 2004.