Power struggle continues among South San ISD top leaders

Superintendent Marc Puig has been placed on administrative leave effective immediately after a meeting was called due to concerns about a not-so-private conversation.

San Antonio – South San ISD is at odds again among itself and the superintendent, who was hired in June 2020, and now, the newly appointed Texas Education Agency monitor, a former superintendent.

Superintendent Marc Puig has been placed on administrative leave effective immediately after a Monday night meeting was called due to concerns about a not-so-private conversation between Puig and Board President Ernesto Arrellano, Jr on November 17th. The conversation took place after the board adjourned to enter into the closed session portion of the meeting.

The two appeared to discuss a contract that had just been voted on. Arrellano appeared to jokingly insinuate that he would step down if his brother was hired. To which Puig replied, “Or you can give me hiring power and you don’t have to worry about that.” The two were heard laughing before the mic was shut off.

Puig addressed his comments, saying he stands by what he said because he doesn’t believe he did anything wrong and rejected the allegations that he’s in cahoots to make any deals. He says the district is doing great things, but the focus continues to be on the pervasive dysfunction that’s plagued the district for 30 years.

He pointed out that in seven years, the district has lost more than 2,000 students resulting in about $16 million dollars in loss to the district. He says the behavior of the school leaders matters.

He pointed out the alliances he’s noticed among board members to get what they want. He says the allegations in the past would have been cleared up if board members and his office communicated before turning to accusations and allegations. He pointed to one investigation in the past involving the hiring of coaches to be unnecessary and embarrassing, costing taxpayers $25,000.

Board President Arellano says the comments heard have been taken out of context. He said his comment was made jokingly. He said he is frustrated with the back and forth and strongly considered resigning, but his children encouraged him to stay on if he hadn’t done anything wrong. He called those attacking him a “gang” and is outraged that people are also going after family members.

The meeting was called by trustees Homer Flores, Stacey Alderete, and Gilbert Rodriguez. They also asked that the board vote to request a different TEA monitor to be appointed, saying there’s a conflict of interest since Abelardo Saavedra is a former superintendent who resigned and got a payout.

In a closed session, the board discussed with legal staff whether or not the superintendent should be investigated and be placed on administrative leave.

The board also received a copy of the transcript of the discussion between Arellano and Puig. Here’s what they received.

Last week the TEA announced a new investigation into South San ISD for a separate incident involving allegations that the board interfered with the superintendent’s duties.

The following is a list of the former superintendents’ names and when they were on the job:

  • Alexandro Flores: 2018-2019/severance pay of $187,577.50
  • Abelardo Saavedra: 2015-2018/ severance pay of $139,013.03
  • Mourette Hodge: 2013-2014
  • Rebecca Robinson: 2012-2013
  • Linda Zeigler: 2011-2012
  • Rob Durbon: 2011

During Monday’s citizen’s to be heard, one taxpayer spoke up in the meeting and one representative of the teachers union. Tom Cummings, South San ISD union rep, says the board should be focused on substitute teacher pay and trying to do something about the teacher shortage.

About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.