EPISD board approves revision to Superintendent's contract

File Photo: Juan Cabrera, superintendent for El Paso ISD.

The contract for the superintendent for the area's largest school district was extended after trustees met Thursday in special board meeting.

In a 4-2 vote, El Paso Independent School District's superintendent's contract will be extended for one year, according to a district spokeswoman.

Juan Cabrera will lead the district until 2023 without his salary changing, giving him the potential to lead the district for a decade.

Trustees Susie Byrd and Al Velarde voted against the extension Chuck Taylor was not at the meeting and did not vote.

There was some conflict leading up to the vote.

The board came out from executive session and Byrd made a motion to postpone the discussion of Cabrera's evaluation and review. No other trustee seconded the motion.

School board president Trent Hatch then called the meeting back into executive session.

Before the board went behind closed doors, Byrd said Cabrera filed a grievance against her. She was immediately shut down by other trustees and Hatch, who said that was an executive session matter.

"Under Texas law, the grievance is a personnel matter and that's supposed to remain confidential, so my intent was for it to remain confidential," Cabrera said.

Byrd said she did not release details of the grievance.

"I have not made the details of that grievance public. When it was presented to me, nobody said this should be not public. They advised that I should keep it confidential, but it was from a trustee. He didn't say it was a required confidentiality.

The board came back from executive session and trustee Mickey Loweree made a motion to accept the proposed revision to Cabrera's contract. Byrd then made a competing motion, calling for Cabrera's resignation or dismissal for good cause for immorality and conscious misrepresentation of facts to the board.

"(I'm) disappointed that was not disclosed to me before. I heard it the same time you heard it, so that was a surprise but that's the way the process works," Cabrera said in an interview.

Byrd later said in an interview that an audit stated Cabrera may have taken favor to one vendor over another.

"We have a superintendent who has conducted himself in an unethical matter. We have a duty and an obligation to hold him accountable," Byrd said.

After Byrd's motion calling for Cabrera's resignation, trustee Diane Dye made a motion that Hatch accepts that Byrd recuses herself from the proceedings and accept her "letter discussing conflict of interest and disclosure of closed session material."

Byrd said she is a campaign manager for former county judge Veronica Escobar's campaign for Congress.

"I didn't realize that was a secret, certainly nothing I've been trying to hide. There is no legal conflict. I've been assured of that by an attorney," Byrd said.

Cabrera said he did not know about Byrd's position until a couple days ago and that it should have been disclosed.

The board made the 4-2 vote to approve Cabrera's contract extension after a final executive session. Due to that, a vote was not taken on Byrd's motion to have Cabrera resign or Dye's motion.

"There's no room for politics in our board. We have a huge responsibility to take care of our students in this community," Hatch said.

In 2017, trustees unanimously approved giving Cabrera a $45,000 raise and a new five-year contract.

Cabrera earns more than $303,000 a year, including benefits.

His most recent contract includes 35 vacation days.

Trustees are required by state law to evaluate the superintendent on an annual basis. Based on that evaluation, the board has the right to make changes to the district’s contract with the superintendent to alter salary and/or contractual timelines.

Cabrera's raise in 2017 drew criticism from teacher union leaders.

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