TEXAS VIEW: School leaders must be held to high standardTHE POINT — Background checks are critical in deciding who will lead our schools.

Southside High School principal Nathaniel Session, one of the top 30 highest-paid principals in Bexar County, did the right thing by resigning. His immediate departure is in the best interest of the embattled Southside Independent School District.
Session was hired last summer despite a troubling criminal record. Had parents been saddled with such a record, it could have prevented them from volunteering in their child’s school.
Session should never have been hired. Impressionable teenagers need administrators to be their role models.
While Session’s hire was perfectly legal, it has caused a major distraction for the school district and given the beleaguered school yet another black eye.
School administrators are allowed wide discretion on how much weight is given to the findings of a criminal background check. Among the factors they consider are the type of criminal case and the time that has lapsed since the incident occurred.
In Session’s case, more attention should have been given to his baggage. He has a misdemeanor family assault conviction from Harris County. The 2012 case involved a woman he since has divorced.
He also had a hot check case, a misdemeanor theft charge, pending at the time of his hire at Southside. The case was dismissed last semester when he made good on the check.
When the news media started asking questions about his criminal record, Session submitted a letter of resignation in early March, effective June 30. On March 29 he resigned, effective immediately.
As part of a plea bargain agreement in the assault that sent his then-wife to the hospital, Session was given a one year probated sentence, assessed a $200 fine and ordered to make payments to a Houston-area women’s shelter.
As a condition of that probation, he was also ordered to complete a batterer intervention/prevention program, and undergo random drug and alcohol testing, according to Harris County court records.
Session completed the terms of this probation in March 2014. His employer at the time reported the assault case to Texas Education Agency, which has the option to sanction certified educators in such cases. None was issued in this case.
Session was one of Southside Superintendent Mark Eads’ first hires after he came onboard in May 2016. Session’s $112,000 annual salary ranked among the top 30 for high school principals in Bexar County, according to a list compiled by mySA.com last fall.
It’s clear that Southside routinely conducts criminal background checks on prospective employees. So the district should have known of Session’s criminal record.
What’s unclear, then, is why the district weighted the criteria the way it did to hire him anyway. The district won’t say.
Southside ISD has been in turmoil for years, and much change is afoot. Optimism was growing that things were finally moving in the right direction after Eads arrived.
Earlier this year, the community welcomed the TEA’s assignment of a conservator in Southside ISD and has been anxiously awaiting the replacement of the elected board with appointed members.
Rebuilding this troubled district is going to take a team effort and community support.
Recruiting community members to serve on the appointed board and educators to work in what has been a dysfunctional district are difficult enough under normal circumstance. Administrative missteps like the one that resulted in the hiring of Session only undermine the process.