Riviera ISD

In a 5-2 split, the Riviera Independent School District approved the creation of a second assistant principal position to serve at all three of the district’s campuses beginning in the 2020-21 school year.

Superintendent Karen Unterbrink presented the new position to the board during Monday evening’s regular meeting. Unterbrink said the additional assistant principal was needed as the district was anticipating “gaps in student learning” because of the lost classroom time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said next school year could possibly be a mix of in-school instruction and remote learning, and another assistant principal would be beneficial in helping to “accelerate our instruction.”

“We are going to need all hands on deck and then some,” Unterbrink said.

Unterbrink said the new position would serve at all of the district’s campuses, which include Nanny Elementary School, De La Paz Middle School and Kaufer High School. The district’s current assistant principal, Diana Guerrero-Pena, serves all three campuses as well.

The superintendent said while the current assistant principal’s duties are mainly focused on discipline and attendance, the new position would be focused on instructional support, program evaluations and providing professional development.

Unterbrink said district was taking a “proactive approach” to the position, and told the board that if they waited too long then the applicant pool would be “very small.” She also said while adding the position “is definitely something that we can do,” it would require some tweaking such as no longer hiring two of their education consultants that the district has hired on a regular basis in the past.

In addition, Unterbrink said she could say the position would be sustainable given the current circumstances, and if there are additional cuts to school funding at the state level because of the pandemic, she might not recommend an applicant to the board.

Prior to the vote, trustee Teresa May brought up her concern about the district’s administrator-to-student and teacher-to-student ratios.

“Do we have too many administrators for the amount of kids that we have in our school?” she asked.

Finance director Jose Betancourt said those ratios are calculated as part of the annual Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas, or FIRST rating. He said Riviera ISD has been within the recommended ratio for the past nine years.

“They’re right in the middle,” Betancourt said.

Trustee DeAnna Hamblin asked, with all of the unknowns for the next school year, if some of the duties could instead be shifted to the current assistant principal. She was also in favor of keeping the consultants they used in prior years to help with the anticipated learning gaps.

“Seems like this is a prime use of the consultants,” she said.

Both Board President Burt Bull and Vice-President Billy Colston spoke in favor of the new position, saying that they “don’t know how to run a school” but said they trust administration to know what was needed to educate their students.

“As long as we’re not blowing money and we’re accomplishing what these people (administration) think we need to do, I’m fine,” Bull said.

Colston made the motion to approve the new assistant superintendent position, which was seconded by Board Secretary Pete Guevara. The motion passed 5-2 with May and Hamblin voting against.

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