UVALDE, Texas – Uvalde CISD’s interim superintendent spoke with KSAT 12 about his new role in the district after the board appointed him at their last meeting on Oct. 19.
Gary Patterson’s official start date was Tuesday, Nov. 1. However, he said former superintendent Dr. Hal Harrell has been showing him the ropes for the past 10 days, taking him to campuses and introducing him to staff.
Patterson has been in education for 44 years now. For the past few years, he has worked with Walsh Gallegos to be placed in different districts throughout our area as an interim superintendent.
Patterson said when he heard Dr. Harrell would be retiring, he asked to be brought into Uvalde CISD.
“It’s not about trying to fill certain shoes. It’s a transition for the district and the community, transition for many years of Dr. Harrell to now a new administration moving forward,” Patterson said.
Patterson said he knows a lot of work must be done to restore trust in the district after the deadly shooting at Robb Elementary on May 24 and in the five months that have followed.
One of his main focuses moving forward is transparency.
In that light, he shared an update on the Texas Police Chiefs Association’s management and organizational review of the district police department that was announced on Aug. 29. Patterson said that it’s close to completion and will help the district with its police department moving forward.
“It’s a building plan. This is where you should start with, and this is everything you need to have in place. And this is what it should look like in six months, and in a year, and in two years, and building blocks all around from everything from a campus resource officer to how we involve the entire community in what we are doing,” Patterson said.
The district police department has been suspended since October 7th following the hiring of Crimson Elizondo, a former DPS trooper who was under investigation for her role at Robb Elementary.
“You build it carefully. You know, we we we look for a chief that can lead the department,” he said.
Patterson explains he will personally oversee the hiring of each officer while using guidance from the Texas Police Chiefs Association.
He also shared that he has had no contact with Pete Arredondo, the former district police chief who was fired on August 24th.
Two separate reviews are happening.
James McLaughlin will conduct one of the reviews. The audit and evaluation of the district police were announced on Aug. 22.
The other is an independent review by JPPI, the same firm hired by the city to investigate Uvalde Police Department.
Patterson didn’t have an update on those investigations, but he said he would get one as soon as possible.
Another focus for Patterson moving forward is rebuilding some of the lost trust and faith with the families of the 21 Robb Elementary shooting victims.
A group of them is meeting with Patterson to talk about what they want moving forward.
“They’ll never hear me say, I understand how you feel or I know what you’re going through because I don’t. I can’t, but I can listen,” he said.
Patterson knows he is in for an uphill battle when it comes to Uvalde CISD.
“We can provide communication, transparency, we can provide that, and maybe some common ground can start coming together,” Patterson said. “We can start rebuilding some trust.”
The mutual understanding of trust and sense of security was shattered in the community on May 24th.
“We can build trust, trust will bring respect for each other’s views. Respect will then help restore a little more civil discourse in some of those meetings,” he said.
Under his temporary leadership, Patterson hopes to restore unity and make Uvalde Strong more than just a saying.
“I do understand the anger and the frustration that comes along with it. But, you know, it’s a strong community and we need to continue to build on that and not get fractured,” Patterson said.
Patterson says he is working closely with the committee formed to build a new elementary school, they’ll have a public meeting to discuss their progress on November 14th.