SAN ANTONIO — It's a year of new beginnings at Harlandale ISD.

Not only is it the first day of school for students, but it's a fresh start for the district with a new interim superintendent.

Samantha Gallegos was named interim superintendent in July after the board gave a notice of termination to superintendent Rey Madrigal in the midst of a state overhaul.  

This happened after the district received a letter sent from the TEA, where it listed "multiple complaints" of alleged violations by the Harlandale board of trustees and superintendent as their reason. 

Issues were related to what the agency calls "contracting practices," "nepotism" and "open meeting act violations." At Gillette Elementary, for example, a repair job ballooned from costing $185,000 to $4.4 million. The TEA said proper bidding and oversight procedures were not followed. 

Gallegos can't change the past, but she's giving hope for the future.

On Monday, she joined teachers as they welcomed students back to Wright Elementary School. She gave them high fives, good wishes and sat down to eat breakfast with them before they started their day. 

"My heart is in Harlandale," Gallegos said. "Harlandale kids deserve the very best and that's our goal, to give them that."

Griselda Raley is the principal at Wright Elementary School. She appreciates what Gallegos is doing to start the year off on the right foot. 

"It makes us feel just that much more supported," Raley said. "Having our superintendent here along with us to welcome our kids on the first day of school, there's nothing more that you could ask for."

This was just the start of her busy day. Gallegos then went to other campuses to visit with students and teachers.

"Our theme this year is 'together is better,'" Gallegos said. "We believe that the community, the schools, teachers, administrators... if we're all working together, our kids are going to get the very best education."

Gallegos said her passion and good attitude will help lift up the district in its time of need. She wants parents to know she's taking this challenge seriously. "These students deserve the very best, and my goal is to ensure that every single one of our employees, whether you're a bus driver, custodian, teacher, administrator, that every single day you're here, you're going to give them 100%."

Gallegos has no idea how long she'll be in this role, but she plans to make each day count.  "We are working with the board to see what the next steps are as far as finding the leader for Harlandale ISD," she said. "As long as there's good communication, things are going to go well here in Harlandale ISD."

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