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EPISD officially names 1st woman superintendent in district history

UPDATE, Dec. 8: The El Paso Independent School District has a new superintendent.

The school board made the selection of Diana Sayavedra official late Wednesday afternoon.

Sayavedra was the deputy superintendent of the Fort Bend Independent School District, which is located just outside of Houston and has 77,000 students. 

She served as interim superintendent at Fort Bend from June to September this year and has been a senior administrator there since 2016.

She is a native of Laredo and will be the first permanent woman superintendent in EPISD history.

Sayavedra replaces Juan Cabrera, who served as superintendent from 2013 until November of 2020, when he resigned after being sued in California for allegedly defrauding investors $5 million dollars in an online school.

UPDATE, Nov. 15: About 8 p.m. Monday after over seven hours of interviews, the El Paso Independent School District Board of Trustees unanimously named Diana Sayavedra, the deputy superintendent of Fort Bend Independent School District -located outside of Houston, as the lone finalist for EPISD superintendent's role.

Sayavedra also served as interim superintendent of the 77,000-student Fort Bend ISD from June to September this year and has been a senior administrator there since 2016, including serving as chief academic officer.

She is a Laredo native, who has been a principal in central Texas and Houston-area schools, and would become the first Hispanic woman to lead EPISD in its nearly 140-year history.

“I can’t wait to learn more about the community and connect with the community and work collaboratively with educators, business leaders and the community to move the school district forward,” Sayavedra said after the board meeting concluded.

The vote was 6-0 with Trustee Leah Hanany abstaining. She had been accused of a conflict of interest with one of the other contenders for the position.

ORIGINAL REPORT, Nov. 15: EL PASO, Texas -- The seven-member El Paso Independent School District Board of Trustees interviewed four finalists for the open superintendent's job during an executive session that began Monday at noon and lasted many hours into the evening.

After those interviews are completed, the board could opt to vote in open session on a lone finalist for the position, although it remained unclear Monday evening if that would occur.

While the board hadn't publicly identified the four finalists, published reports indicated they were Darryl Henson, superintendent of the Marlin Independent School District; Matthew Gutierrez, superintendent of the Seguin Independent School District; Diana Sayavedra, the deputy superintendent of Fort Bend Independent School District; and Jeff Cottrill, deputy commissioner of standards and engagement at the Texas Education Agency.

None of the four finalists named by El Paso Matters are El Paso natives, or longtime El Paso residents, which was said to be a top request in community feedback given to the district.

In addition, allegations have surfaced of a potential conflict of interest in the finalist process as EPISD trustee Leah Wayne Hanany works for Henson as the communications coordinator for the Marlin ISD, which is located outside Waco.

Hanany and the other trustees have refused to discuss the four finalists or the potential conflict with the media citing non-disclosure agreements they signed with the recruitment firm hired by EPISD to conduct the search for a new superintendent.

Of the leaked finalists, Gutierrez and Sayavedra each have either current or prior experience working in the administration of school districts similarly sized to EPISD - about 50,000 students, while the district Henson currently leads and the one the TEA's Cottrill formerly ran each have under 1,000 students.

The four current finalists were whittled down from an initial pool of 21 candidates submitted to the board for consideration.

Whoever is ultimately selected will replace Juan Cabrera, who agreed to resign in November 2020 (for a $500,000 contract payout) after he was named in a lawsuit alleging fraud at a California charter school that he was involved in operating. Vince Sheffield, a longtime EPISD administrator, has been serving as the interim superintendent since Cabrara's departure, but it's unknown whether he had expressed an interest in the job on a permanent basis.

(El Paso Matters contributed background to this report.)

Article Topic Follows: Education

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