The McAllen Independent School District Board of Trustees approved a contract Monday with superintendent lone finalist René Gutiérrez that runs through June of 2027 and pays a base salary of $300,000 a year, although add-ons bump the total rate to $395,000 a year.
The board tapped Gutiérrez as superintendent last month after 14 years spent in that post at Edinburg and Brownsville schools.
Gutiérrez is slated to officially start as superintendent on November 27.
A Reynosa native and product of McAllen schools, Gutiérrez describes returning to McAllen ISD as a homecoming.
“So I bring a wealth of experience to my hometown, to my community. My kids graduated from McAllen High School, both my boys. I’m honored to be back and serve the kids that have identified with me, and can identify with my history with growing up in South McAllen. I was a kid that came from Reynosa when I was eight years old, enrolled in the old Roosevelt School when it was for all immigrants…” he said. “So my history goes back to South McAllen, growing up as a recent immigrant. And I am where I am because of great teachers from the McAllen Independent School District.”
Trustees speaking at Monday’s meeting referenced Gutiérrez’s leadership track record and years of experience.
“This is a big decision, a momentous day for McAllen ISD and our community. He is strong academically, he is strong on the finance side fiscally and I think that he’s going to do great things for our district and help move us forward. It’s a change and a new era for McAllen ISD,” Trustee Sofia Pena said.
Trustees didn’t vote unanimously.
Both Board President Debbie Crane-Aliseda and Trustee Lizzie Kittleman voted against Gutiérrez as lone finalist last month, motions they repeated without commenting publicly Monday.
Kittleman said in October that she just felt Gutiérrez wasn’t the right fit, while Crane Aliseda expressed concerns over compensation.
Gutiérrez is getting paid a base salary that’s about $33,000 higher than former superintendent J.A. Gonzalez, who exited the district for Harlingen CISD in July.
Gutiérrez is, however, taking a significant pay cut compared to his base salary in Brownsville, which — at $354,128 — was the highest of any superintendent in Deep South Texas last year.
Aside from the $300,000 base pay in Gutiérrez’s new contract, McAllen ISD will compensate him a little more than $95,000 in insurance, Teacher Retirement System pay, personal phone expenses, automotive expenses, professional meetings and membership costs, and 20 extra vacation days valued at his base rate.
Finances will likely be front and center on Gutiérrez’s mind after he gets to work later this month.
The board approved a budget this summer that included a little over $7 million in proposed cuts aimed at through a cost savings plan.
The district paused that cost savings plan after the departure of Gonzalez this summer and most of those cuts haven’t been made yet.
Gutiérrez will probably have to begin weighing those financial decisions while building a leadership team around himself.
A number of high-level administrative departures surrounded Gonzalez’s departure to Harlingen.
At present, the district’s sole associate superintendent position is vacant and three of its four assistant superintendent posts are filled by interims.
On the bright side, Gutiérrez will have about $5 million in fiscal wiggle room, the result of a successful voter approved tax rate election that passed last week.
It also looks like he’ll have at least one more experienced hand to help guide the district.
Rosalba De Hoyos, the district’s former assistant superintendent for instructional services and current interim superintendent, says she’ll be sticking around McAllen ISD.
Crane Aliseda said via text Wednesday that De Hoyos’ service as interim and work as an administrator is a benefit to the district.
“We are profoundly grateful for her dedication, expertise, and the invaluable contribution she has made to our educational community,” she said. “Dr. Hoyos has exemplified the best of leadership, and her legacy will continue to benefit our district long into the future. Thank you, Dr. De Hoyos, for your outstanding service, and for prioritizing the well-being of our students above all else.”