In a series of 4-3 split votes, the Kingsville Independent School District Board of Trustees approved hiring an assistant superintendent and two campus principals during Monday’s regular meeting.

San Diego ISD educational services administrator Graciela Prizzini was approved to serve as the KISD’s new assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in a 4-3 vote Monday evening.

Board president Brian Coufal, vice-president Brandon Greenwood and trustees Lynn Yaklin and Steven Crites voted for the hire, while board secretary Corando Garza and trustees Cory Garza and Nicolas Prado voted against.

Prizzini will fill a vacancy left after Grace Ruiz resigned from the district in early May. While Ruiz held the title of assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction until her resignation, her district responsibilities had been shifted in January to overseeing the KISD’s special education and career and technical education departments.

Also approved in 4-3 split votes Monday evening, with board members voting the same as with Prizzini’s hire, were hiring Carroll High School assistant principal Mohagany Daniel as the H.M. King High School principal and Corpus Christi ISD administrator John Albert Trevino as the Harrel Elementary School principal.

KISD Superintendent Elida Bera had recommended hiring both Prizzini and Trevino during last Thursday’s special meeting, but her recommendations failed to pass on a 3-3 split with Greenwood, Yaklin and Crites voting in favor, and Corando Garza, Cory Garza and Prado against. Coufal was not present for last Thursday’s meeting.

Prior to Monday’s vote to hire administrators, and following about an hour of closed session discussion, Cory Garza told the board that he first wanted to make a statement.

Cory Garza said that at last Thursday’s board meeting, Bera had “alluded to affording opportunity to our own ‘homegrown’ staff when considering vacancies.” 

He said that many of the recommendations brought by senior staff to the board “have not been reviewed to the fullest extent, and disclosure of pertinent information has been withheld, which has significantly hindered the ability of this board to make well-informed decisions.”

“As a product of KISD, I truly believe that before opening the gates to outside applicants, we should consider our own staff,” Cory Garza said. “Those who have invested years of service and have added value to our district.”

Garza then asked the board who would stand with him “and recognize the talent of those who have otherwise been overlooked,” to which Bera responded that the KISD is an “F” district “and we need to change.”

“Our theme next year is ‘Being part of the change,’ and that’s what I think you all hired me to do,” Bera said.

Prado said that he “fully agreed” with Cory Garza, and said some of the district’s campuses are an “A.”

“We do have ‘A’ schools, we do have ‘B’ schools,” he said. “So not everybody’s an ‘F.’ For you to say that our district is an ‘F’ is a lie. Some of our schools are an ‘A,’ and those employees have not been considered.”

Following the votes, Corando Garza said he also wanted to make a statement,  adding that he also felt there are qualified people within the district.

“And I’m going to be very leery about supporting people from outside of the district before we take our own, as Ms. Bera called them, ‘homegrown,’” he said. “We need to start promoting our own homegrown people.”

During the board’s May 13 meeting, both Cory and Corando Garza voted against hiring former KISD federal programs director and Kleberg Elementary School assistant principal Peter Pitts as the district’s new chief financial officer, as well as hiring H.M. King physics and engineering teacher Marissa Hamilton as the high school’s new dean of instruction.

On Monday, Greenwood then made a statement that although he has not always agreed “100 percent” with the superintendent’s recommendations, the board had told Bera when she was offered the position that she had “absolute control as to who she was going to bring into this district.”

“Had we not told her that, I may have had a different opinion on how I may vote,” he said.

Greenwood said now that the board had approved the hires, they should “get behind them, support them and make sure that we are doing everything we can for the best interest of our students.”

“And if they don’t perform, then we have something to hang our hat on with Ms. Bera,” he said.

Crites said he concurred with Greenwood’s statement, and Yaklin said it was time for the district to “get started.”

“Because we’re only stalling at this point if we don’t get started,” she said.

Coufal said he had no closing statement to make before adjourning the meeting.

In an interview Tuesday, Bera said several audience members had asked her why she did not speak out or defend herself during the statements from the board.

“And I explained to them, this meeting is about the board,” she said. “It’s their meeting. All I can do during those meetings is make recommendations, inform the board about what’s going on in the district or answer their questions. I really can’t respond to statements. That’s not my role.”

Also during last Thursday’s meeting, Bera withdrew her recommendations to hire former SGS principal John “Mike” Jones as the Harvey Elementary School principal and West Oso High School teacher Linda Morales as the Gillett Intermediate School principal. Both hires had been previously approved in 5-1 split votes during the board’s June 24 meeting, with Prado voting against.

Bera declined to comment on the reasons for withdrawing the recommendations during Tuesday’s interview. She also confirmed that Palito Blanco Elementary School principal Gloria Hamill, who had also been approved during the June 24 meeting as the Kleberg Elementary School principal, has since withdrawn her application with KISD.

Approved during last Thursday’s meeting were the hiring of CCISD administrator Tracy Johnson as the special education director and West Oso Junior High School assistant principal Belinda Gamez as the principal for Gillett Intermediate School.

Gamez was approved in a unanimous 6-0 vote, while Johnson received a 5-1 split, with Cory Garza voting against.

The Kingsville ISD Board of Trustees will consider filling principal vacancies at Harvey, Kleberg and Perez Elementary Schools, along with the instructional services director position, during a special meeting scheduled for Thursday beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Bera said she and her staff have been conducting interviews with potential principals this week, and said she might “start off with some interim principals” at some campuses.

“We have a list of principals that we are still going through,” Bera said. “I don’t want to just hire anybody (for those positions). I want people that are effective and can do the job as expected.”

Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at aruiz@king-ranch.com or (361) 221-0251.

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