Two SAISD district leaders resign following ‘system failures’ that led to school closures

‘Apologies are not enough,’ SAISD superintendent says; schools will be back in session Monday

SAN ANTONIO – SAISD Superintendent Jaime Aquino told staff members in a memo that “Apologies aren’t enough” for the human error and faulty equipment that led to a district-wide shutdown this week — it’s cost two district leaders their jobs.

Aquino said he accepted the resignations of Ken Thompson, Deputy Superintendent of Operations, and Mike Eaton, Chief of Operations, but said the current situation stems from several issues “including aging infrastructure, system failures and being underfunded by the state.”

A district spokesperson provided KSAT with a copy of the memo that was sent to staff members on Thursday.

In it, Aquino thanked Thompson and Eaton for their “significant contributions” to the district, but said, “We must admit that this was an error on the part of leaders in our district.”

All 98 SAISD schools were closed Thursday and Friday after widespread heating system failures created school environments too cold to educate students. The district said late Friday afternoon that classes will resume on Monday.

A cold front brought temperatures well below freezing as SAISD schools were out for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday on Monday with lows dipping down into the teens. Students went back to class Tuesday and found temperatures in some classrooms were in the 50s as temperatures stayed below freezing for more than 50 consecutive hours.

The district announced late Tuesday night that it would be closing 20 campuses on Wednesday. As more issues were discovered, another 11 schools were added to the closures list on Wednesday.

Aquino then held a news conference Wednesday saying about 70% of SAISD schools had experienced some degree of heating system failure and all schools would be closed the rest of the week.

“We are painfully aware that San Antonio ISD was the only school system in the region to experience this significant of a systems failure. We know there is more than one cause. For that reason, we will work an external investigative team to examine the event and publish a full report summarizing the reasons for this breakdown,” Aquino said in Thursday’s memo.

He also said that Jenny Arredondo, Senior Executive Director of Child Nutrition Services, would take charge of the operations division on an interim basis with senior executive support from Deputy Superintendent Patti Salzmann.

District officials said about 50 HVAC specialists are comprehensively checking heating systems and analyzing conditions site-by-site across the district. District staff and campus leadership will be working throughout the weekend in preparation to welcome students and staff back to class.

“Over the past few days, our team has been diligently focused on this matter, and this dedication will persist through the weekend as we navigate the reopening process next week,” Aquino said. “Our primary goal is to ensure that we can fulfill our commitment to our school community.”

All student absences during Jan. 16-19 will automatically be counted as excused absences. Parents are being informed that parent notes are not needed and perfect attendance reports will exclude these days from calculation.

Since Wednesday, the district has provided instructional resources to students on the district’s website and more than 18,000 meals to children through curbside pickups at the campuses.

“Ensuring the opening of school on Monday remains our utmost priority,” Aquino said. “Simultaneously, we are actively collecting information to formulate a long-term plan that prevents a recurrence of this situation.”

About the Authors

Julie Moreno has worked in local television news for more than 25 years. She came to KSAT as a news producer in 2000. After producing thousands of newscasts, she transitioned to the digital team in 2015. She writes on a wide variety of topics from breaking news to trending stories and manages KSAT’s daily digital content strategy.

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Recommended Videos