Wiggins lone finalist for Salado ISD chief
Wiggins has been named the sole finalist for the open job of superintendent of the Salado Independent School District. Acting on Friday, July 25, the Salado district's board of trustees voted unanimously to offer a contract to Wiggins.
"I truly do love Port Aransas," Wiggins said. "I think Gayla (Wiggins' wife) and I both share a love for PAISD (the Port Aransas Independent School District). … But this is an opportunity I can't afford to not take."
Salado, which lies about 40 miles north of Austin, has a "well-respected" school district that's growing, Wiggins said. The district has a $15.5 million new high school set to open this fall.
In addition, Wiggins said, "I think their board is hungry for student performance."
Wiggins said family matters also figured into his decision. His daughter, Ashley Winton, lives in Killeen, which isn't far from Salado. Ashley, who has a 3-year-old daughter, Madyson, is married to Tyson Winton, a former Port Aransas resident now serving in the U.S. Army at Fort Hood, which borders Killeen.
About 5,000 people live within the Salado school district, which lies in and around the town of Salado. Salado, classified by the University Interscholastic League as a 2-A district, has 1,232 students. PAISD, a 1-A district, has 540 students.
Wiggins isn't the first PAISD employee to make the move to Salado. Randy Henderson was a Port Aransas High School teacher and coach of the school's Lady Marlins basketball team before he took an almost-identical job at Salado High School earlier this year.
Wiggins, who is beginning his sixth year as superintendent in Port Aransas, generally has been wellregarded by the PAISD Board of Trustees. In fact, trustees last year nominated him to be the Texas Association of School Boards superintendent of the year.
Wiggins' salary is $110,000 a year.
The Salado school district chose Wiggins from among 36 candidates for "his leadership skills, his previous experience and his instructional leadership background," said Miriam Ervi, a Salado ISD trustee who was involved in her district's search for a new superintendent.
Rick Adams, president of the PAISD Board of Trustees, said he wasn't especially surprised that Wiggins was moving on.
"When you have a highly qualified superintendent," Adams said, "there's always that possibility they will be sought out and approached."
While Wiggins and the Salado trustees expect him to be their next superintendent, Wiggins technically has not yet resigned from PAISD. He said he won't do that until he signs
contract with Salado.
State law prev
ents school districts from officially offering contracts to prospective superintendents for 21 days after a board names someone as the sole finalist.
After Wiggins offers his resignation, Port Aransas trustees can start discussing what methods they might use in conducting a statewide search for a new superintendent, Adams said.
Trustees also must appoint an interim superintendent. That person could come from inside or outside the district, Adams said.
News of Wiggins' likely move to Salado comes as trustees prepare to approve a new annual budget and welcome a new school year, which begins Aug. 25. But Adams said he didn't expect Wiggins' impending departure to put the district in a difficult spot.
PAISD's business manager, Brian Schuss, "is an exceptional business manager and has a good grasp of district finances," Adams said. "I think our budget is pretty much hammered out."
For a new superintendent, Adams said he expects trustees to seek "an educational leader, someone who is a team builder who will work with his administration, the campus principals."
The next superintendent also should agree with PAISD trustees' philosophy of ensuring a "challenging" curriculum, Adams said.
Trustees also will be seeking a superintendent who is good with money and especially understands how to manage the fiscal difficulties faced by PAISD - a property-rich school district which, by state law, must give much of its tax revenue away to property poor districts, Adams said.
PAISD also needs a superintendent who will continue the successful work by Wiggins and his wife to move many special-education students into mainstream student population and prepare them so well that they are passing state-mandated tests designed for students their age, Adams said.
Gayla Wiggins resigned in June as curriculum/special programs coordinator at PAISD. She is pursuing work as an independent educational consultant. Her former responsibilities at PAISD are going to be divided between principals and a part-time contract worker.
Adams said he is hoping the district can find a replacement for Billy Wiggins within three months after the search begins.