Frustrated San Antonio Superintendent Calls It Quits

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After four years of struggling against a divided and sometimes uncooperative school board, San Antonio Superintendent Diana Lam has thrown in the towel.

The district's seven-member board voted 4-3 last week to accept Ms. Lam's resignation. She had four years remaining in her $142,000-a-year contract, according to district officials.

Under the agreement, the 60,000-student district will pay Ms. Lam sums of $170,000, $70,000, and $378,000 over the next two years. Some $200,000 of the $618,000 total is payment for "reputational injuries, pain and suffering, and mental anguish arising from the controversy between the two parties," the agreement says.

The district has also agreed to continue covering Ms. Lam's benefits and to cover up to $40,000 for any legal and accounting fees related to her resignation.

Ms. Lam said in a prepared statement that she and the school board "have concluded that our vision for the district is different, and for that reason, I have agreed to step down from the superintendency" effective Jan. 15, 1999.

Diana Lam

"A shared vision is key to making progress in student achievement," Ms. Lam continued. "I think every urban superintendent in this country would agree that to serve children and their families ... the superintendent and school board must share an education vision and work well together."

After the school board's vote Nov. 16, board member and San Antonio Federation of Teachers representative James Howard, who voted in favor of accepting the resignation, told The Associated Press that "if she's not comfortable being here and taking some of the good with the bad, then it's in our best interest to move on."

An Uphill Battle

Ms. Lam, who was San Antonio's first female superintendent, clashed with the school board on several fronts, including school restructuring plans, construction spending, and staffing decisions.

But she enjoyed broad support among business leaders, according to Charles D. Lutz, the chief executive officer of Bank One, San Antonio and the chairman of the education council of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.

"The business community threw itself behind her and the education initiatives and outcomes she's been a catalyst for," Mr. Lutz, a former school board member, said in an interview.

The school system, one of Texas' largest and poorest, has typically ranked at the bottom on the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills, but has showed slow but steady gains during Ms. Lam's tenure. Of 40 district schools listed four years ago among the state's lowest-performing on an annual compilation, only four remained this year.

Before coming to San Antonio in 1994, Ms. Lam served as superintendent in Dubuque, Iowa, and Chelsea, Mass. She was named Massachusetts' superintendent of the year in 1991. She began her career in education as a teacher in Minnesota and in her native Peru.

Ms. Lam is on leave and not expected to return to her office before Jan. 15. Associate Superintendent David Splitek will fill the post until a permanent replacement is hired.

Vol. 18, Issue 13, Page 3

Published in Print: November 25, 1998, as Frustrated San Antonio Superintendent Calls It Quits
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