The San Antonio Independent School District board approved the contract of new Superintendent Jaime Aquino, who then addressed the community in strikingly personal terms Monday evening.
“I want to begin this journey by allowing you to get to know me, Jaime, the person, the human being, not the leader,” Aquino, 57, said before reading a letter he wrote to his young self in both English and Spanish.
He starts work Tuesday.
The trustees’ unanimous vote came after a minutes-long discussion in executive session in a special meeting three weeks after they named Aquino the sole finalist for the position.
Aquino will get an annual salary of $315,000 under a five-year contract that ends May 2, 2027. The compensation is similar to that received by former Superintendent Pedro Martinez.
During the 2020-2021 school year — the last of his tenure at SAISD — Martinez received $315,054, up from his starting salary of $279,999 during the 2015-2016 school year, according to Texas Education Agency records.
Aquino sat in the audience surrounded by family members as the board voted. He then received la bendición from his mother, Margarita, hugs from others, and took the podium to speak with introspection and intensity.
In the letter to himself, he described a sensitive youngster who questioned the world’s injustices and strained under their weight, from growing up surrounded by inequity in the Dominican Republic, to experiencing racism and stereotyping before and after moving to the United States with his family.
“At an early age, you will experience insurmountable despair, and this will lead you to try to do the unthinkable and end your life,” his letter read. “For the rest of your life, you’ll feel guilt over the pain that that act cost your parents. … They will forgive you, so you should forgive yourself and trust that God saved you for a purpose.
“Use this experience to ensure that others find meaning in their lives. Help them understand that they matter, and help them hold on,” he read.
In both languages, the new superintendent also read from his favorite children’s book, “I Will Make Miracles” by Susie Morgenstern, and provided a copy to each trustee, urging them to share the miracles they would like to see happen.
“Your words were authentic, they were heartfelt, they were perfect for the time that we are in,” trustee Ed Garza said. “As my colleagues have stated, you bring a style of leadership and a connection to people that will allow for miracles to happen.”
Trustee Alicia Sebastian told Aquino he was “a breath of fresh air that a lot of our families can connect to, different and just very wise in your approach.”
“I thank you so much, I thank the family for sharing Jaime with us. It is going to be a lot of work starting tomorrow, but I’m just excited to be in this position as a board member,” she said.
The contract provides for health and life insurance coverage, an allowance of $750 per month for the use of his personal vehicle for district duties, a cell phone for work purposes, home office equipment, and a credit card for business expenses.