Brownsville ISD town hall: New superintendent needs to listen

dfwnewsa | January 10, 2024 | 0 | East Texas News , South Texas News

Dr. Jesus H. Chavez

About 20 people including parents, a former librarian and other Brownsville Independent School District teachers and staff attended the first of three community round tables on Tuesday to guide the selection of a new superintendent of schools.


Former superintendent Rene Gutierrez was hired late last year as superintendent of the McAllen Independent School District. Brownsville native and BISD graduate Jesus H. Chavez is serving as interim superintendent pending the selection of someone for the permanent position.

Chavez is a former superintendent of the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District, and of Round Rock ISD, which serves more than 46,000 students.

Forum attendees said they had noticed a difference in leadership styles between the two men.

Maria Magalena Aguilar-Crandall, who posts to a popular Facebook page about BISD that often criticized Gutierrez, advocated more direct access to the new superintendent, as did others at the meeting.

Aguilar-Crandall, who said she retired about a year ago as an elementary school librarian out of frustration over Gutierrez, said parents and staff need to feel like they’re being listened to.

“I’ve been told from the teacher of the year roundtable that they noticed the difference when the previous superintendent walked in on a meeting and the interim superintendent did, and how they felt they were being listened to. I hate to say it but it’s personality,” she said.

Louie Leal, a teacher for more than 30 years at Stillman Middle School, said employees in general need to feel valued.

“I’m telling you, at the end of this year there’s going to be a lot of employees leaving, lots of employees, for the fact that they don’t feel welcome. … A lot of times the employees and I’m not just talking about teachers but employees in general, they need to feel valued,” Leal said

The session at the Buchanan Performing Arts Center at Hanna Early College High School lasted more than an hour, moderated by Robert David of O’Hanlon Demerath & Castillo, the law firm for the BISD Board of Trustees, which is conducting the superintendent search.

As the session closed, Leal said once the board has its five or six candidates and they come to Brownsville to be interviewed, that he would recommend having a teacher or an employee on the committee that interviews the finalists.

“Classroom teachers, custodians, cafeteria professionals, bus drivers, they need to be on that committee listening to what their responses are to these important questions. I appreciate these town halls, but at the same time teachers really need to be on that committee instead of just board members or main office management. I think teachers need to be on that committee as well,” Leal said.

Earlier, former board member Minerva M. Pena said there needs to be a direct line of communication between the community and the superintendent and not just through the chain of command.

A parent in attendance agreed, saying parents should be able to come see the superintendent without having to go through so many obstacles just to get in to speak to him or her.

“They should have an open-door policy for the community to see, you know, that this man is here for us, this man is listening to us,” the parent said.

“But it’s so hard for us as parents to be able to get into the office to be able to get a one-to-one conversation or to be able to get 100% of their attention. I think it would do wonders for them to be able to trust BISD and trust this superintendent.” he said.

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Lee Garcia, a BISD administrator, said he hopes the new superintendent will be closely involved with the community.

“I think if you’re looking at increasing community involvement, your superintendent needs to be involved in the community. Your superintendent needs to be a stakeholder. You have to have skin in the game. You have to be part of the community. You have to be a taxpayer. The community needs to be able to see you in restaurants, in stores, so it’s not just a thing of driving in every morning and they can see you out there involved with community organizations,” Garcia said.

Two more community town hall meetings are scheduled, at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the CAB Cafeteria at 708 Palm Blvd., a bilingual session, and on Wednesday, in Spanish, in the auditorium at Porter Early College High School.

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