San Benito school board eyeing candidates for superintendent’s job

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)
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SAN BENITO — The new school board is targeting in on candidates in the running to become the district’s next superintendent.

On Wednesday, officials began reviewing 27 candidates for the job after the Texas Association of School Boards released their applications following Tuesday night’s deadline.

Officials declined to disclose whether Acting Superintendent Fred Perez, who could not be reached for comment while on vacation, had applied for the job.

The board’s expected to name its finalist for the post within about two weeks, board President Orlando Lopez said.

“It all depends on vetting it,” he said in an interview.

On July 9, board members are meeting to review applications.

Lopez said board members will work together to select the finalist for the job.

“Everybody sees all the applications,” he said. “We’re going to do this as a collective body to review and vet the applications.”

In May, the school board hired the Texas Association of School Boards’ Executive Search Services to help conduct a state-wide search for candidates, paying the agency $10,500.

As part of the search process, officials conducted a survey, posting a link on the district’s social media channels while emailing parents and staff, board Vice President Ariel Cruz-Vela said.

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 SBCISD Board of Trustees wanted to include the San Benito community in the search for the next superintendent,” she said. “The survey asked several questions including what are some of the strengths of the district, some of the challenges and issues, and what are the professional and personal characteristics that the board should look for in the next superintendent.”

In response, the school board received 455 responses, 47% from parents and members of the community, 52% from staff and 1% from students, Cruz-Vela said.

“After reviewing all the responses from the survey, personally, I think that we have a strong profile for our next superintendent,” she said.

On Wednesday, board members said they were looking for a candidate who could bring stability to the district’s top administrative post while working with staff to boost academic standards.

“I’m looking for a superintendent with the qualities of nurturing a culture of positivity for staff and kids’ learning environment,” Lopez said.

Nearly 10 months after former Superintendent Theresa Servellon resigned, board member Rudy Corona said he was looking for an educator who could bring “stability” to the district.

“I’m looking for stability,” he said. “I’m looking for someone who is approachable with staff, students and the community, someone who’s well-rounded as far as finances and someone who’s well-rounded in education, who can basically run every department,” he said.

Like other trustees, board member Alex Reyna’s looking for a candidate with “strong leadership” qualities, “good with making critical decisions, motivating and inspiring administrators, teachers and other faculty members to continuously improve and be the best at what they do.”

Among the applicants, he’s looking for a candidate with “communication” skills, “one that’s especially good with crisis management, responds to criticism and policy explanation, builds trust and aligns goals and resolves conflicts,” he said.

Reyna wants a candidate capable of “team building,” working to “build strong relationships and teamwork among our executive team, administrative staff and the school board (with) instructional knowledge, commitment to continuous learning and educational research, evaluating and enhancing educational programs within our district.”

A view of San Benito High School Tuesday afternoon on March 15, 2022, in San Benito. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

Reyna said he’s looking for a candidate adept at “problem-solving” while “reinforcing trust among team members, maintaining a level-headed approach (with) rational decision-making.”

The school board’s closing in on naming the district’s next superintendent nearly 10 months after Servellon resigned, three weeks after the board’s past majority suspended her following a year on the job.

Since then, Perez, the district’s migrant and federal programs director who’s served as San Benito High School’s assistant principal, has taken over as acting superintendent, working with officials to draft the district’s new $133.4 million budget.

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 a superintendent’s search, members of the board’s previous minority, which included Lopez, Cruz-Vela and 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 resigned after serving in the position since 2004.