SAN ANTONIO – State Sen. Jose Menendez said he's looking to clear the air after allegations of teachers being targeted for mass terminations at the San Antonio Independent School District.
"You know there's an old saying, 'You can trust, but you must verify,'" said Menendez, a Democrat representing District 26, which includes parts of San Antonio.
In a May 17 letter to Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath, Menendez requests "an immediate comprehensive investigation and sanctions as appropriate, of SAISD practices related to the current year's appraisals and/or evaluations, which resulted in the resignation and termination of 132 teachers."
TEA staff members are reviewing the request before issuing a response.
The mix of contract and probationary teachers were forced to either resign or be recommended for termination in the face of declining enrollment at the district. While Superintendent Pedro Martinez said the terminations were based on teacher evaluations and appraisals, multiple assistant principals have reported they were given a list of targeted teachers months before the evaluations were completed.
Menendez, who quoted a KSAT report in his request to the TEA, said that allegation concerns him.
“I mean, how can you know who you think you want to go after? Is that based on what? Salary? Or what was it based on? Is it based on tenure? I don't understand that part, and that's kind of the one thing I do want to see," he said in a Wednesday interview.
Though he did not mention them in his letter, Menendez seemed to reference other messages in his interview, saying many of the terminated teachers "have been writing to us, and we've received also some -- I guess, communications if you will -- from people who conducted the interviews, or the evaluations."
Referring to "some of the communications that have come in," Menendez said some people said they didn't know the evaluations would be for this purpose, and others who conducted the evaluations said they were uneasy about how the process went.
The district, meanwhile, denies any wrongdoing.
"The claims that we have received, we have looked into. If we receive more claims we're certainly going to look into them. At this point we have found nothing to substantiate those," said SAISD spokesperson Leslie Price. "We did follow policy. We did follow law. We feel we did it fairly and we think any investigation will show that."
Price said there may have been confusion over a yearly initiative to help struggling teachers, which she said has nothing to do with the reduction in force.
"Principals do start off the year and continue through looking to identify any teacher that might be struggling and also others that are performing well to understand what level of development, coaching, resources they may need," Price said.
Menendez said he has no preconceived notions about what an investigation would find. He does, however, want one done.
"I don't think anybody should be concerned," he said. "If everyone's doing what they're supposed to be doing they should welcome the scrutiny."
A TEA spokeswoman said the agency normally tries to respond within a few days, "maybe two weeks at the most," but that it depended on the nature of the inquiry or request.