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Richter bows out, Leo steps in

Virginia Richter said it was apparent things weren’t going smoothly in Sharyland ISD, and that was the reason she decided to resign from her superintendent position.

When asked by Progress Times what caused the discontent, she paused and stuttered for 15 seconds before giving her answer.

20141003 SISD Superintendent-Resigns 3786“Let me think how to say this,” she said before pausing again. “They [the board] were not supportive of administration. We didn’t see eye to eye on everything is the best way to say it.”

With a 5-2 vote, Richter’s voluntary resignation was final at the special called meeting Monday night, following nearly an hour of debate in executive session.

“I felt that it was in the best interest of everyone involved,” Richter said of her resignation. “If you attended some of the last board meetings, you could sense some uneasiness and that’s not what I’m about.”

Richter signed on as superintendent in 2012 and now will serve as a consultant during the interim period. Her contract expires June 30, 2015. Filomena Leo, former La Joya superintendent, starts full-time as the interim Oct. 6. Leo also served as the interim when former SISD superintendent Scott Owings resigned in 2012.

Richter knew about a month ago that things weren’t going well, and when she felt it was no longer a “conducive environment” that’s when talk of her stepping down occurred.

During the summer, the board initiated a climate survey on the district’s leadership and work environment. It was a unanimous agreement that Richter approved as well.

“This was a way of getting some feedback to the board, as far as if there were any possible issues out there,” Board President Dr. Noel Garza said.

The survey results presented in open session at the Sept. 23 meeting showed low morale at SISD, but Richter doesn’t believe they’re entirely accurate.

“I’m not completely convinced that everything was included in the report because of the number of people that have come to me and said, ‘My comments weren’t there,’” Richter said. “But when it came out, it was obvious there are people that are not happy with my leadership.”

Regardless of the results, Richter said it would have been a courtesy to have the survey presented in executive session. Board Member Eddie Montalvo alluded to why the survey was public before declining to comment further on the matter and forwarding all questions to Garza.

“They had a survey done; it was done out in the open in public. When Jesse Muñiz was, you know, everything we had with him was private,” Montalvo said before cutting himself off.

Muñiz, SISD’s former assistant superintendent for business and finance, quietly placed on paid leave over the summer while the district’s leaders worked out a $2.3 million budget deficit for this fiscal year. He has since been reassigned, but district officials have not disclosed the title of Muñiz’s new position.

Montalvo, who cast one of the dissenting votes Monday night, said Richter was “under pressure” and he was not in agreement with what happened. Rolando Peña cast the other dissenting vote.

Leo said she wasn’t completely informed on the issues surrounding Richter’s resignation, but she is more concerned about the Sharyland community.

“My first goal will be to assess what is needed and then plan an approach that will nurture the staff to continue doing the good work that they have been doing,” she said.

Garza said it’s not easy whenever an employee decides to resign, but the district will put their best foot forward and move on.

“It’s always sad to see somebody that you wanted to see succeed from the beginning and it just not turn out that way,” he said. “We wish (Richter) the best.”

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