Gerdes exits UCISD board

Trustees to consider replacement options two months after election

Jennifer Fry

Staff writer

Mickey Gerdes, Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District board member for the last eight years, has turned in his resignation.

On June 19, Gerdes penned a letter to the UCISD board of trustees indicating his decision to be released from official duties as soon as was practicable. The board is expected to meet tomorrow in special session at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the matter and perhaps name a replacement.

“The past eight years of service on the board have been a fulfilling experience for me that I am grateful for,” Gerdes wrote in the letter. “I regret that I have to end my tenure as a trustee in this manner.

“I appreciate the friendships formed and the genuine way that we have worked together to make the district better.”

In the letter, Gerdes named the district’s dual-language program and the settlement of the Morales v. Shannon lawsuit as highlights of his time on the board.

Running unopposed, Gerdes was re-elected for another four-year term during the most recent school board elections held May 5. Having previously served as board president, he declined the presidency when the board was reorganized during its May 21 meeting.

Reason for Leaving

Part of the impetus for stepping down from public office was the sale of his business. “I sold my law practice recently,” Gerdes told the Uvalde Leader-News. “That happened after the elections. It was not really planned or expected.”

The law firm was sold to Charlie Downing, a Uvaldean who moved back to the area from the Rio Grande Valley four years ago. Because of the sale, Gerdes signed a legally-binding agreement stating that he cannot practice law within a certain radius of the Uvalde area.

“I don’t have a job in Uvalde after July,” he said. “I’m going to have to find something – if it’s in law, it won’t be in Uvalde.”

According to Gerdes, the situation came on suddenly. “It all happened within a matter of weeks,” he said.

Superintendent Search

In addition to the sale of the business, another force compelled Gerdes to consider stepping down: the resignation of Superintendent Jeanette Ball.

“Dr. Ball’s deal was somewhat of a surprise,” he said. “Now the board is looking to name an interim.”

He recalled when he first joined the board in 2010. At the time, then-superintendent Wendell Brown had chosen to step down. Gerdes did not have the opportunity to join the search for a new head of district, as he was elected in May and Brown’s replacement was hired in April.

“I do not want to do that to the board or my successor,” he said.

At the heart of his decision is a concern for the unity of the board of trustees.

“That seven-person team making that decision – it doesn’t need to include me,” he said, referring to the process of choosing a new superintendent for the district.

“If I take part in that process, I am robbing my replacement… It’s more important to me that the board be able to name a replacement – then they have a buy-in and they are a part of that process.”

Board Future

As for what he hopes for the future of UCISD and the board of trustees, having a unified body and being able to continue to offer quality education topped Gerdes’ list.

“My main hope is that they can find somebody that has a shared vision for where the district needs to go and can get there,” he said.

He remembered how the district was when he initially joined the board. “It’s just night and day different,” he said, recalling the severe financial strain the district was under at the time.

“Here we are, eight years later – we have a healthy fund balance… [and] summer programs for kids.”

Gerdes foresees the challenge the district will face is in keeping its quality programming while maintaining fiscal responsibility.

“The biggest challenge,” he said, “is how to operate responsibly within the framework of school finance as it exists, but also offering opportunities that a kid in Alamo Heights or Kerrville has.”

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