January 10, 2024 530 PM
PRESIDIO — On Thursday, December 21, Presidio Elementary School Principal Joe Andy Mendoza was notified by district leadership that he was being reassigned from his post to an administrative position at Presidio High School. This Monday, staff was notified that former co-principal Yvette DeAnda was tapped to replace him; she will be formally recognized at this month’s upcoming board meeting.
Interim Superintendent Carmen Rubner explained that Mendoza’s new position at the high school as “attendance administrator” was an important role: the school’s funding is directly tied to attendance, and having an administrator specifically dedicated to tracking and improving attendance would have benefits for both the students and the district.
She clarified that she had not acted alone: a five-person committee had decided to reassign Mendoza. She declined to name the committee, but said that elementary school educators had a voice in making the difficult decision. “It’s a positive thing for the high school to have attendance and truancy being addressed, and it’s a positive thing to have a certified administrator at the elementary school,” Rubner explained. “This was done in what I believe is the best interest of the district.”
Mendoza — who took a pay cut and moved across the state to work for the district he’d grown up in — was happy to continue serving the district, but expressed some hesitation about his transfer, which he said came without warning in the form of disciplinary hearings or meetings with administrators.
When he was tapped by former Presidio ISD Superintendent Ray Vasquez to assume the role, he wanted to break a three-year cycle of annual principal turnover he felt was sabotaging student success. “Nobody can turn a school around in a year,” he said. “It’s an institution, it’s a culture, it’s a climate.”
Rubner said that the move was not a knock against Mendoza’s leadership — instead, it was an effort to keep the district up-to-date with statewide rules about administrator certifications. She clarified that Mendoza’s official title was not technically that of “principal,” though that was student and staff shorthand — under her leadership, his formal title was shifted to “substitute administrator.”
Mendoza had previously addressed the issue with the Presidio International in August 2023. He said that he had earned his administrative certification in Arizona; at the time he was hired by the district, Arizona and Texas were considered “reciprocal,” meaning that administrators could move between states without having to earn a new certification.
Those rules changed during the chaos of the pandemic — and the process of re-certifying got more difficult. As he wrangled the necessary paperwork, he hoped that parents wouldn’t take the change in title as a sign he wasn’t serious about the position. “It’s a technicality,” he told the International in August. “The school district goes by the book and follows the rules and is transparent — they’re doing their job.”
In the fall, the district’s three campuses were all led by “substitute administrators” to avoid legal complications from certifications in flux: Mendoza at the elementary school, Taro Gutierrez at the middle school and Belinda Dolino at the high school.
Interim Superintendent Rubner also serves as Presidio High School principal and was the only formally designated principal in the district before elementary school leadership was handed over to Yvette DeAnda, who retired in 2020. DeAnda earned her latest principal certification in October 2023, two months before her new role at the elementary school was announced. (DeAnda could not be reached for comment by press time.)
Despite the complications, Mendoza was hoping to assume his new position with a positive, student-centered mindset. “I want to tell parents, and I want to tell the teachers that they are my family,” he said. “For a year and a half, I tried my best to raise students who are responsible, respectful and safe.”