SKIDMORE — The Skidmore-Tynan Independent School District board of trustees has fired its superintendent, Dr. Brett Belmarez.
The six-to-one vote followed a 90-minute executive session during a special meeting here Thursday evening. Trustee Salvador Soto cast the dissenting vote.
At the same session, the board voted to place Belmarez on paid administrative leave and, at a special meeting Oct. 21, to begin the process of finding an acting replacement.
Belmarez remains on the payroll until the outcome of a hearing on his termination, if he chooses to request it.
Belmarez, who is 44, was named superintendent in 2003.
The actions occur 17 days after Belmarez requested protection under the whistle-blower act.
Last April, he wrote District Attorney Jose Aliseda alleging board members had violated the Texas Open Meetings Act by forming “walking quorums” in which trustees used social media to discuss and decide on subjects to be covered in public meetings.
Belmarez said in September that he feared board members might retaliate for his reporting his concerns to first District Attorney Aliseda, who forwarded the information to County Attorney Mike Knight.
Board President James Bennett denies that’s the case.
At its regular meeting earlier this month, S-TISD trustees voted to retain “an appropriate person” to investigate Belmarez’s charges.
In a press release prepared by an attorney, the board lists numerous reasons for its actions, including:
• Last month Belmarez suggested the board buy out his contract. “He offered to have the board create a non-existent employment position for him and pay him until 2019 to occupy this position... The board rejected the offer.”
• Repeated claims by Belmarez that trustees violated the Texas Open Meetings Acts. “In spite of the board’s directives... to provide...information about any claimed violations, Dr. Belmarez... steadfastly refused to furnish any particulars... The allegation,” the release says, “is completely untrue,” saying that Belmarez made the accusations “based solely upon the fact that the board voted to reject his proposed budget.” Last month, the board approved a 15-cent decrease in its overall tax rate.
The release says that in a letter to Belmarez responding to the charges, Knight says “...Dr. Belmarez had made similar allegations in the past... (that) only those who disagree with you on particular issues are accused of violating the act and not those who support your position.” Knight ends his letter with “The Open Meetings Act is intended to create transparency in public affairs, not dictatorship in public affairs.”
•Unprofessional conduct that “in the recent weeks and months has seriously undermined the working relationship with the board.”
The firing ends months, even years, of animosity between Belmarez and a majority of the trustees long critical of his administration, despite his being named School Superintendent of the Year for Region 2 by the Texas Association of School Boards and the S-TISD system consistently achieving high scholastic ratings from the Texas Education Agency.
Bennett says that by an agreement between the board’s and Belmarez’s attorneys, the superintendent decided to attend an out-of-town education conference in lieu of attending Thursday’s board meeting.
Repeated calls to Belmarez Thursday evening were not returned.