Pineda’s stint as leader will end next year

RAYMONDVILLE — After a decade, Superintendent Johnny Pineda’s entering his last year as head of the school district.

School board members late Tuesday night gave him Pineda his job evaluation in a closed meeting but took no action on whether to extend his contract, which expires next June.

Board President Jessica Cantu did not respond to messages requesting comment.

But Pineda said the upcoming school year will be his last as superintendent here.

“I did not request a contract extension or salary increase,” Pineda said yesterday.

“This is my 10th year as superintendent of Raymondville,” he said. “I’m thankful for the opportunity bestowed upon me. There have been many positive changes that have occurred during my tenure and I am proud of all of them. It’s been a united effort from the school board, the faculty members and the community.”

Pineda said the board gave him a “good” evaluation.

“It was above-average,” Pineda said.

During Pineda’s last year, the district will launch an early college high school program, offering students college-level courses with as many as 60 college-credit hours.

“We still have a lot ahead of us,” Pineda said. “I think early college high school will forever change the dynamics and culture of the community. Everyone will be part of early college high school, which will be a great financial benefit for every family here.”

Pineda also said the district plans to hold a tax ratification election in November aimed at generating money for the district.

If voters approve the measure, the district would shift 13 cents from its interest and sinking fund to its maintenance and operating fund to lever an additional $800,000 over seven years, based on a state formula, Pineda said.

Pineda said he would use about half the money to boost the district’s current $7.2 million fund balance while the other half would go to improve student education.

The district’s monthly operating costs average $1.6 million, Chief Financial Officer Christy Gonzalez said.

If voters approve the measure, Pineda said, the district’s property tax rate would remain at $1.32 per $100 valuation.

“The additional revenue will be without raising taxes,” Pineda said.

In the last year, the school board’s majority appeared dissatisfied with Pineda.

In June, the majority appeared to reject Pineda’s advice on a critical matter.

In a special meeting, board members voted to pay Frank Cantu, the district’s athletic director and head football coach, $24,000 in stipends — even though he apparently already had been paid the money.

Cantu and board members Daniel Garcia, Javier Longoria, Mario Tijerina and Jaime Villarreal voted to pay Cantu $12,000 for a stipend to serve as head football coach in 2014-2015 and $12,000 for the same stipend for the 2015-2016 school year.

Then, the board members voted to pay Frank Cantu $12,000 for the same stipend for the upcoming 2016-2017 school year.

Board member Lupe Ruiz abstained from voting while member Ramiro Ramirez was absent.

Jessica Cantu, Frank Cantu’s former sister-in-law, said Pineda told board members before their vote that Frank Cantu was paid the two $12,000 stipends during the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years.

Board members reviewed documentation showing Frank Cantu’s “base pay,” Jessica Cantu said. But she said the documentation did not include the payment of the two $12,000 stipends.

Jessica Cantu said “incomplete documentation” led the board to cast its vote to pay Frank Cantu the two $12,000 stipends.

For years, Pineda has worked to improve students’ state test scores, cut student disciplinary problems and curb absenteeism amid falling enrollment.

Last year, the board did not give Pineda a contract extension.

In August 2014, Ruiz led a previous school board that gave Pineda a 3-percent raise, boosting his annual salary to $146,100.

Pineda, who was hired in 2007 after serving with the Brownsville school district, has become the district’s longest-serving superintendent since at least 1990.