RISD’s superintendent suspended with pay
By a vote of 5-2, Riviera Independent School District Superintendent Ernest Havner was placed on administrative leave with pay during a special school board meeting held at the Margaret Malin Library Monday night. Voting in favor of placing Havner on administrative leave were Board President Jose “Buddy” Naranjo, Vice- President John Beadle, Secretary Becky Gutierrez, Billy Colston III and Tomas “Tommy” Longoria. Voting against the measure were trustees Danny Strubhart and Wilson Martin.
Strubhart began Monday’s meeting by announcing he was recording the proceedings – he later took a digital recorder from his shirt pocket before the board went into closed session for about an hour and a half.
Coming back into open session, RISD’s trustees first took no action on an agenda item regarding an evaluation of Havner.
Gutierrez then made a motion, which was seconded by Colston, to appoint Dr. Ann Dixon as a consultant to assist with Havner’s evaluation and the daily operations of the district. Strubhart discussed setting a limit on the amount to be paid to the consultant at $2,500 adding that RISD’s attorney Tony Resendez, mentioned that the consulting services could cost as much as $5,000 to $10,000 – or even more. None of the other trustees responded to Strubhart before approving the hiring of Dixon by a count of 5-2.
Gutierrez then made a motion to place Havner on administrative leave, which was seconded by Colston. Strubhart asked whether Havner would be placed on paid leave and for how long. The board decided to grant Havner paid leave until further notice. Strubhart said the eventual final cost of Havner’s evaluation by then could run up a tab of $45,000 to $60,000, adding that he believed such an expenditure was a form of misconduct by the board. Havner was placed on paid leave by a count of 5-2, after which the board adjourned for the evening.
After the meeting, Havner said he had never received any warning from trustees that he might be placed on administrative leave.
“None at all. The last board meeting they showed up with a new attorney (Resendez) that they had hired, and now it has come to this action tonight,” Havner said.
RISD’s previous attorney was Blake Powell.
“We are simply going to continue working towards what is in the best interest of the kids,” Havner said. “I hope the district will review some of the things they have done and understand that our TAKS scores continue to rise, our budget is at 61 percent out of a total of 100 percent that was funded, so we are way below our budget expenditures. Our TAKS scores came back today and they are excellent, and right now I am not quite understanding the purpose of this.”
Strubhart echoed Havner’s statements.
“I do not think there are grounds for this action,” Strubhart said. “Our test scores are good, our fund balance is also good, all of our reports are good – so I see no reason to have this action. The majority of what I have heard (as to why Havner has been put on administrative leave) has been hearsay and I won’t give that comment.”
None of the other trustees would comment about the reasons for placing Havner on administrative leave.
Havner, who is in his final contract year, started with RISD in June 2008. His previous stint as superintendent was at Runge ISD, a 1A district located in Karnes County.
In March 2010, RISD trustees voted 4-3 against extending Havner’s threeyear contract. Voting against lengthening Havner’s contract were Naranjo, Beadle, Martin and Gutierrez. Taking the other side were former President Sylvia Arguijo, then Vice President Lisa West and Strubhart.