As the school year winds down, several administrators with the Kingsville Independent School District have submitted their letters of resignation in recent weeks prior to the school board taking action on 2019-20 employee contracts.
KISD Superintendent Elida Bera confirmed in an interview Tuesday the resignations of Assistant Superintendent Grace Ruiz, Athletic Coordinator Teddy Carrier, Memorial Middle School Principal Alys Williams, Gillett Intermediate Principal Guadalupe Martinez, Perez Elementary Principal Leo Ramos, H.M. King High School Assistant Principal Max Segovia and Memorial Middle School Assistant Principal Norma Alvarez.
Ruiz served as an educator and administrator with KISD for nearly 30 years, most recently as its assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
In January, Ruiz had her responsibilities shifted from curriculum and instruction to overseeing the KISD’s special education and career and technical education departments. Bera said in an interview conducted in January that while Ruiz remained an assistant superintendent at that time, “she does know that come April she will not have that title.”
During the May 13 regular board meeting, Board Secretary Corando Garza asked Bera in open session about a network hard drive containing sensitive school information Ruiz might have erased prior to leaving the district.
Bera, along with Assistant Superintendent Kamara Adams, spoke about the incident Garza was referring to during Tuesday’s interview.
“How it came about was we had an expulsion hearing that we weren’t aware of that was in Dr. Ruiz’s purview,” Adams said. “So the people showed up, and I had no knowledge of it.”
Adams said she went to get the information for the hearing from the network drive “to find that there was nothing on it, completely.”
“So we are working to make sure that in the future that doesn’t happen again,” she said. “As well as ensure that that is what, in fact, happened. We need to make sure she hadn’t been using something different (to back up the information).”
Bera said the KISD board are “very well informed” about the incident, but could not say if it was a potential legal matter.
“Right now, I don’t know where it’s going to lead us,” she said. “It could be, like Ms. Adams said, that she was using her own computer. I don’t know.”
Carrier, who served as the district’s athletic director until early January when he was moved to athletic coordinator, resigned last week after the KISD board voted in a 4-3 split against renewing his contract during a May 8 special board meeting.
Bera had recommended that the board renew Carrier’s contract, but convert it to a non-certified professional contract as he does not have an administrative or supervisory certification to hold a director position.
While Board President Brian Coufal, along with trustees Lynn Yaklin and Steven Crites voted for the renewal, Vice-President Brandon Greenwood, Corando Garza and trustees Cory Garza and Nicolas Prado voted against it.
Coufal later clarified in a phone interview after the meeting that while changing Carrier’s contract to a non-certified professional contract was not renewed, that did not mean his contract in general would not be renewed.
Carrier, however, resigned from the district before his contract could be reconsidered at Monday’s regular meeting.
Adams said it can be “difficult to get a job” after an educator’s contract is not renewed.
“There’s a place on every application that says, ‘Have you ever been asked to resign in lieu of termination?’ and ‘Have you ever been nonrenewed?’” she said.
Adams said because of the initial confusion following the meeting as to whether Carrier’s contract would be renewed or not, she believes that his resignation was him “wanting to get out in front of it.”
“Since it was very sketchy on what, in fact, happened, with different board members having different thought processes on what they thought had just happened, I think he wanted to make certain that (the nonrenewal) wasn’t more truthful,” she said.
Bera said she would be opening up the athletic director position in the near future.
“And I will be keeping it as an athletic director,” she said.
Williams and Martinez had both served as their respective campus principals since 2015 before resigning from the district in early May.
Ramos, who is retiring after 50 years with the KISD, had asked to rescind his resignation, Bera said.
“Because he likes what’s going on, and would have liked to stay on a little bit more,” she said. “But (his resignation) had already been approved, and I’ve already accepted it.”
Alvarez, another longtime employee, had served as the special education director until January when she was moved to Memorial Middle School to serve as an assistant principal.
Bera said to fill the administrative vacancies, she will be looking both inside and outside the district.
“Wherever there’s talent,” she said. “And sometimes that talent is in our own backyard, so I’m going to look here first, and then I’m going to look around.”
Bera did want to make clear, however, that she has “no intentions” of bringing anyone else from her former district, Judson ISD, to Kingsville.
Bera said she would be bringing to the KISD school board other possible campus administration changes, which could include moving principals to different campuses or positions, at their next meeting, scheduled for Memorial Day on May 27.
In separate meetings held March 8 and 13, the KISD took action on more than 300 employee probationary, term and dual assignment contracts, along with administrator and other professional contracts, for the 2019-20 academic year.
While most of the superintendent’s recommendations were approved by the board, trustee Cory Garza made a statement prior to voting on the contracts during the March 13 meeting regarding Assistant Superintendent Adams being the only employee to be recommended for a two-year contract.
“We have many employees in this district who have invested not only years of service, but some their entire careers,” Cory Garza said. “And to give consideration for a two-year contract to only one employee is unfair and undervalues all our other employees whose performance merits the same consideration.”
During Tuesday’s interview, Bera said she has two years left on her contract, and she wanted to make sure that Adams continued to serve with the KISD at least through her term.
“Ms. Adams has already been highly recruited by other surrounding districts,” she said. “They’ve seen her gains and know what she does. I don’t want to lose her. She’s my right hand and my left hand.”
In 5-2 split votes, the board also approved during the May 13 meeting hiring Peter Pitts as the district’s chief financial officer and Marisa Hamilton as the H.M. King High School’s dean of instruction.
Pitts previously served as the KISD’s director of federal programs before he was moved to Kleberg Elementary School to be an assistant principal in January. Hamilton is a physics and engineering teacher at H.M. King.
Trustees Corando and Cory Garza voted against both hires.
Looking ahead, Bera said she and Adams are planning “a very aggressive recruiting season” this summer as they work to fill the district’s administrative and teaching vacancies.
“The way I see it, starting next (school) year, that’s when I open up my chapter, technically,” she said.
Bera said there would also be increased professional development training as they prepare for the 2019-20 academic year.
“As I’ve told the board, the only way to get rid of a bad teacher is by making them better,” she said. “That’s my philosophy, and with that in mind, we are planning a lot of staff development over the summer, particularly in the development of our curriculum.”
“I think (the teachers) are excited about the future and what we’re looking at,” she added.
Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (361) 221-0251.