The discussion at the Ector County Independent School District board meeting shifted Monday night from examining search firms for its superintendent search to calling for a special meeting next week to name Interim Superintendent H.T. Sanchez the lone finalist.
This decision comes a week after Sanchez, 38, was voted superintendent 4-1 by the Tucson Unified School District board, which meets today to discuss his contract that has yet to be signed. He has worked for ECISD for three years, been in education for 15 and has served as interim superintendent for three months, replacing retiring superintendent Hector Mendez.
Without Sanchez sitting in on the Monday night workshop to comment on the back-and-forth of the last few days — Will he stay? Or won’t he? — the board called for the special meeting to start at 6 p.m. Monday when they will take a vote to name Sanchez the lone finalist for superintendent. The board took no action at the workshop, and the only agenda items were to discuss the profile of a superintendent, search firm, conducting the search and to approve a plan for conducting the search, the last of which was not made.
Following public comments from 13 different members of the community, trustee Nelson Minyard asked that the board have a special meeting to name Sanchez the lone finalist for superintendent to which trustee Luis Galvan seconded.
The meeting was initially called to outline a list of qualities to hand over to a search firm “if” the board were to go that way – the words “if” and “should” were used often by the board on Monday night.
“Should we find ourselves having to use a search firm, we’re probably looking at a request that is in adverse times; most superintendents for the 13-14 school year already have been placed,” trustee Steve Brown said.
The board did discuss using a search firm, though only in gathering more information from each of the four firms presented and to identify a list of characteristics. No vote was taken. The discussion was tempered by the fact that the board will be voting to name Sanchez its lone finalist next week.
The meeting likely will not be held at ECISD headquarters because the air conditioning is going to be worked on next week. An alternate location will be posted with the agenda on Thursday that will include a discussion of an interim superintendent, should it be necessary.
Of the 13 citizens who spoke, three took the position of either telling the board that Sanchez was not the right choice for ECISD superintendent or that a national superintendent search should be conducted as was advocated by some of the four new board members who were voted in on May 11. The 10 other citizens backed Sanchez and asked the board to name him the lone finalist for ECISD. For local pastor Malcolm Tyree and president of the PTA counsel for ECISD, he brought an opinion not heard – at least at a public meeting so far.
“What we’re going through is really crummy timing. I say that because as a school board, you waited too long about initiating a search,” Tyree said.
He listed several reasons why he believes Sanchez should be superintendent: his ability to collaborate, communicate, demonstration of forward-thinking-ness, understanding of ECISD’s issues, innovation, bilingualism and determined nature, Tyree said.
Sanchez was not at the meeting (he was at a conference in Austin, not in Arizona, Sanchez confirmed Tuesday morning via text message), but his wife Mary Sanchez, who is also the principal at Barbara Jordan Elementary School, did speak to the board. She did not disclose that she was married to Sanchez.
“I’m not here to advocate for one candidate or the other,” she said, adding that she was speaking as an administrator and parent. “It’s very important that you provide support that’s necessary not in actions but in words… I ask that you provide support that candidate.” She did not mention her husband during her comments.
Sanchez did not return requests for comment following the meeting.
Not all who spoke backed Sanchez.
Vicki Gomez, who retired from ECISD and was a board member for 12 years, rattled off the signs of a discouraging trend at ECISD: poor results on the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, and high drop-out and truancy rates. She compared the superintendent search with that of the process to find a football coach for Permian High School.
“If Permian High’s football team experiences losing seasons, the coach would be fired or resign. The search for a coach would have been immediately under way, and promoting from within for continuity would not even be a consideration,” Gomez said. She congratulated Sanchez on the new job in Tucson and said that ECISD has an opportunity to hire someone with a proven record. She also asked Galvan to resign.
“It’s not about us, it’s about the best investment we can make,” she said. “Let’s pretend we’re hiring a football coach. Widen the search and make sure we’re hiring the best.”
This meeting comes on the heels of TUSD naming Sanchez their lone finalist that riled up several in the community, including Collin Sewell, who spoke at the board meeting June 18 and told the board that TUSD had found ECISD’s lone finalist for them.
J.T. Thornhill, who identified himself as a taxpayer with “no dog in the hunt.” chose to read a few lines from a Tucson newspaper that quoted Sanchez as saying he was not in a frame of mind to stay put and that he had been working with a realtor.
“My focus is on Tucson and on the work that's there in Tucson," he said to the Arizona Daily Star. "If it's put forward, it's a great honor, but I'm the superintendent in Tucson and that's where I sit."
- Galvan made the request to "not approve a plan for conducting a superintendent search," to which ECISD attorney Mike Atkins said, "so a plan to have no plan." No one seconded the motion.
- There was discussion by board members to retract on the idea of inviting search firms to speak at the same meeting on Monday when Sanchez will be voted on as lone finalist for ECISD. It would be inappropriate to in one motion ask Sanchez to remain superintendent, but have search firms waiting in the balances, and vice versa, Brown said. The decision was agreed on to hold off on the search firm discussions if they're needed at a later date.
>> Contact Lindsay Weaver on twitter at @OAschools, on Facebook at OA Lindsay Weaver or call 432-333-7781.