EPISD trustees to consider search firms in effort to hire new superintendent

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The El Paso Independent School District Board of Trustees will consider using a search firm in their efforts to hire a new superintendent after a close vote on Tuesday morning.

Trustees voted 4 to 3 on the matter, with some concerned about the quality of candidates they will get from a search firm that does not completely understand the community.

Trustees Al Velarde, Freddy Klayel-Avalos, Bob Geske and Daniel Call voted in favor of looking for a search firm in order to mitigate the amount of time it would take to evaluate candidates. But trustees Josh Acevedo, Diane Dye and Chuck Taylor voted against the measure, not convinced of the benefit a search firm could bring.

“It is going to take a lot of time for the board, (but) it is something we should be doing,” Acevedo said.

Now, EPISD will begin its process to receive proposals from search firms that specialize in finding executive-level candidates to take on the permanent superintendent position.

The school board is looking for a new superintendent after Juan Cabrera resigned from his position in November. Cabrera agreed to a separation agreement worth more than $500,000 after a lawsuit was filed in California involving him and former board president Dori Fenenbock.

The two former EPISD leaders are accused of defrauding charter school investors. Cabrera’s official resignation date is Feb. 1.

Interim Superintendent Vince Sheffield was appointed by the school board on Nov. 5 and has nearly 30 years of experience working with the school district.

On Tuesday, the school board continued their debate on whether to consider search firms in their efforts to replace Cabrera. Trustees are still entertaining the idea of piecing together a community advisory board and one made up by the trustees or their appointees.

Velarde argued there would be a big issue over confidentiality if the school board conducted the replacement on their own.

Velarde was also concerned about the amount of time trustees would spend conducting the hire themselves.

“If we were to do it ourselves, we would be maintaining all records associated with this in the district,” he said. “Looking back, information gets out.”

Acevedo said he is not looking for an executive to be brought into the position with a large contract allowing for car allowances.

He was also critical of a board made up by trustees because only three would be able to participate and it would exclude others on the board from participating.

“It’s going to turn into a participation trophy for the community,” he said. “I just don’t see any of these search firms really being great.”

Klayel-Avalos said he had similar concerns as Acevedo but was concerned about how much time it would take for trustees to take on the hiring process. With the coming election season, he felt he and several other trustees would take on a brunt of the work.

“That’s going to leave a lot of the job to me, Daniel and Al, which would be fine, but it’s not as equitable to all the other districts,” he said. “There needs to be a sense of continuity between what’s happening now and what’s going to happen after election season.”

Acevedo rebuffed the statement, saying he would put his time as a trustee before campaigning.

Four districts are up for election on May 1. The districts are currently held by Geske, Acevedo, Dye and Taylor.

Call said he “wants to have options” and that “the best choice tends to rise to the top.”

The school district could use a search firm as long as the price was not “outrageous,” he added.

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