Uvalde CISD board names interim superintendent

Walsh Gallegos law firm approved by the board on Oct. 10 to search for a new superintendent

Uvalde CISD board members met Wednesday behind closed doors for more than two hours to decide on an interim superintendent after accepting Superintendent Hal Harrell’s retirement announcement last week.

UVALDE, Texas – Uvalde CISD board members met Wednesday behind closed doors for more than two hours to decide on an interim superintendent after accepting Superintendent Hal Harrell’s retirement announcement last week.

The board named Gary Patterson as the interim superintendent while the board-approved law firm Walsh Gallegos works to find a permanent replacement for Harrell.

Patterson will start pending Harrell’s retirement.

Patterson served as superintendent for East Central ISD in San Antonio for 14 years and retired in 2014. According to a release from Lake Dallas ISD, he has served as interim superintendent for several school districts in Texas.

Why it’s important

  • District community members are divided on their support for Harrell following the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary that claimed the lives of 19 students and two teachers.
  • Victims’ family members have demanded more transparency from the district following law enforcement’s (including UCISD PD) 77-minute delay in response during the mass shooting.
  • The retirement announcement came just four days after Uvalde CISD fired a new officer who was a former Texas DPS trooper under investigation for her response to the school shooting. Crimson Elizondo was one of the troopers at Robb Elementary on May 24. Body camera footage captured her saying “If my son had been in there, I would not have been outside. I promise you that.”

The bigger picture

Wednesday’s meeting kicked off with a public comment phase that quickly got heated, with family members of Robb Elementary victims frustrated over the district’s lack of action.

Rosemberg Risa, who spoke during public comment, asked that someone outside of district be utilized to hire a new superintendent and interim superintendent.

Amerie Jo Garza’s maternal grandmother, Dora Mendoza, was visibly upset during the commotion. She told board members her granddaughter was braver than the officers who responded to the shooting.

‘Social butterfly’: Amerie Jo Garza’s parents remember their 10-year-old daughter

Some of those in attendance also called for JJ Suarez, a board member and police officer, to resign from his position.

After public comment, the board convened behind closed doors for over two hours to interview two candidates for the interim superintendent position before choosing Gary Patterson.

Last Week’s Meeting

As the Uvalde CISD school board met to accept Superintendent Harrell’s retirement on Oct. 10, some of the families of Robb victim’s expressed that they felt heartbroken that their community never showed this kind of support for them.

When more people attended last Monday’s meeting compared to other meetings, Robb victims’ family members said it ripped at their wounds.

Tiffany Massey and Nicole Ogburn are both teachers in the Uvalde CISD. They taught 4th grade at Robb Elementary and were there on May 24. They went to the board meeting last week in support of Harrell.

“Just to show that we love him and that we support him,” Ogburn said.

”I don’t know any other outlet that they had that was that true and honest and just a good man who truly wanted to do the right thing,” Massey said.

Victims’ families and their supporters quietly filed inside the small boardroom meeting last week as they have done for four and a half months.

“Twenty-one murdered teachers and students wasn’t enough to outrage our Uvalde Strong community. But your retirement is. You’re very blessed,” Berlinda Arreola, Amerie Jo’s grandma said.

Kimberly Rubio, the mother of Lexi Rubio, spoke about the hurt caused by the community directing hatred toward grieving families over a decision Harrell stated he made himself.

“How dare you decide now, when a job is at stake, to come together? But you stay home as we, the families, have been demanding transparency and accountability. How dare you attack those of us who lost our children in the worst way possible,” Rubio said during the meeting.

Some of the families of the victims told KSAT they never wanted Harrell to retire in the first place.

Click here for more Uvalde coverage on KSAT

About the Authors:

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Ivan Herrera has worked as a journalist in San Antonio since 2016. His work for KSAT 12 and KSAT.com includes covering breaking news of the day, as well as producing Q&As and content for the "South Texas Pride" and "KSAT Money" series.