San Benito superintendent resigns following suspension; plans to retire

dfwnewsa | September 27, 2023 | 0 | East Texas News , South Texas News

San Benito superintendent resigns following suspension; plans to retire

San Benito CISD Superintendent Theresa Servellon is seen at a regular school board meeting on Aug. 15, 2023. The board of trustees, on a 4-3 vote, suspended Servellon Sept. 8, a year after the past school board hired her. (Courtesy: San Benito CISD/YouTube)

SAN BENITO — Nearly three weeks after her suspension, Superintendent Theresa Servellon is resigning, planning to retire.

Meanwhile, school board President Orlando Lopez declined to disclose whether trustees agreed to pay Servellon as part of a settlement.

After a 90-minute closed-session meeting on Tuesday, the school district’s new board of trustees accepted Servellon’s resignation while she’s planning to retire at the end of December.

The meeting’s agenda called for “discussion and consideration of superintendent employment agreement/contract and evaluation.”

A year after the past school board hired her, Servellon had two years remaining on her contract paying an annual salary of $203,400.

A day after the meeting, Lopez declined to disclose whether the board entered into an agreement paying Servellon.

“We can’t disclose anything right now as far as negotiations,” he said in an interview. “At the end of the day, a decision was made by the board. I wish her the best of luck moving forward. We’re working to move the district forward.”

Now, board members are planning to launch a search for the district’s next superintendent, Isabel Gonzalez, the district’s spokeswoman, stated.

Servellon recognized

On Wednesday, district officials released a “joint statement of the board of trustees and Theresa Servellon,” stating she was resigning and retiring after reaching an agreement allowing the school board to hire a new superintendent.

“The board and Servellon have entered into the agreement believing it is in their respective best interests and in the best interests of the district,” Gonzalez stated. “Theresa Servellon has announced her retirement as an educator in the state of Texas and her resignation as superintendent of schools for the San Benito Consolidated Independent School District. An agreement has been reached which allows Servellon the ability to pursue other interests and permits the board to pursue hiring another superintendent.”

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Theresa Servellon

As part of the statement, the school board recognized Servellon’s “achievement and accomplishments.”

“On behalf of the entire district, the board of trustees expresses its sincere appreciation to Servellon for her efforts while serving as superintendent of this great school district and its wonderful students, parents and administrators, and for the many achievements and accomplishments of the entire district team during Servellon’s tenure as superintendent,” Gonzalez stated.

Meanwhile, Servellon expressed her appreciation to the current and past school board for appointing her to the position, Gonzalez stated.

“Servellon thanks the present and past board of trustees for providing her with the opportunity to serve in the San Benito Consolidated Independent School District,” Gonzalez stated. “A school district is measured by the commitment of the board, staff and community to its children and their achievement. This district is indeed so committed. Servellon would like to express her heartfelt appreciation to the staff and community for their support of the district’s programs and services during her term as superintendent.”

In the statement, Servellon and the school board recognized her staff for helping reach the district’s accomplishments, Gonzalez stated.

“Success requires hard work, dedication, leadership and vision,” Gonzalez stated. “The board and Servellon wish to acknowledge and recognize the teachers, principals, administrators, staff, students, parents and patrons who have all contributed to the district’s success. The board extends its best wishes to Servellon in her future endeavors.”

Split board

On Sept. 8, a split school board voted to suspend Servellon, placing her on paid administrative leave.

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On both sides of the split board, trustees have declined to disclose the reason behind Servellon’s suspension, which district officials have described as a “personnel matter.”

“Because the district does not comment on personnel matters, no further comment will be made regarding Ms. Servellon’s employment status,” Gonzalez has stated.

During a special meeting on Sept. 8, Lopez and trustees Rudy Corona, Ariel Cruz-Vela and Alex Reyna voted to place Servellon on paid administrative leave.

Meanwhile, board members Oscar Medrano, Frutoso Gomez and Mario Silva cast dissenting votes.

In September 2022, the past school board’s majority appointed Servellon to the superintendent’s position, signing her to a three-year contract paying an annual salary of $203,400 after she had served about six months as interim superintendent.

As part of the contract, the agreement states the school board could have terminated Servellon based on the two parties’ “mutual” consent.

“This contract may be terminated by the mutual agreement of the superintendent and the board in writing upon such terms and conditions as may be mutually agreed upon,” the contract states.

The San Benito Consolidated Independent School District John F. Barron Administration building is pictured Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, in San Benito. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

The contract also allowed board members to dismiss Servellon “for good cause.”

“The board may dismiss the superintendent during the terms of the contract for good cause in accordance with the Texas Education Code Sections 21.211, 21.212 (d), board policy and any reason constituting good cause under Texas law,” the contract states.

Based on the contract, the school board could have bought out Servellon’s contract, paying her two years’ worth of salary plus benefits, if trustees terminated the agreement without cause.

“If the superintendent is not terminated for cause, the parties agree that the district shall pay the superintendent a lump-sum payment to fully compensate the superintendent for the entire value of all salary, medical and health benefits, all stipends to include longevity stipend and the supplemental payments to the teacher retirement system of Texas due under the remaining term of this contract,” the contract states.

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Earlier this year, Servellon’s leadership became an issue during a bitter May election in which voters flipped the board’s balance of power, returning Lopez and Corona to office, leading a new majority, including Cruz-Vela and Reyna, to take the board’s control.

Since the board’s past majority appointed Servellon to the superintendent’s job, Lopez, Corona and Cruz-Vela questioned some of her actions in matters including San Benito High School’s assignments to the principal’s position and her administration’s decision to order a halt to a $40 million bond-funded construction project amid questions surrounding two buildings’ foundations. Meanwhile, some board members claimed Servellon withheld district information from them.

Before taking the district’s top administrative job, Servellon had served as the South San Antonio school district’s chief academic officer.

Previously, she served more than 20 years with the San Benito school district, taking a job as director of secondary curriculum and instruction after working as a principal and teacher.

Servellon holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in educational leadership and administration from Texas State University.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information. 

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