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Lone Arlington ISD superintendent finalist's withdrawal left leaders 'blindsided'

 A portrait of a woman smiling, wearing a black jacket over a blue shirt and a necklace.
Gregory-Portland ISD
Michelle Cavazos was the lone finalist to lead Arlington ISD, but instead decided to keep her role as superintendent of Gregory-Portland ISD, a small district near Corpus Christi.

The search for a new Arlington Independent School District superintendent will continue after lone finalist Michelle Cavazos decided to stay put.

Cavazos, who has served as Gregory-Portland Independent School District's superintendent since 2020, inked a new five-year contract after negotiations "broke down" between her and AISD's school board, according to a press release.

The announcement left AISD board members "blindsided," board President Melody Fowler said in an interview with KERA News. Fowler said she and the board saw the news on social media along with everyone else.

"We didn't get a phone call, we didn't hear from her attorney, nothing," Fowler said. "We just started hearing from people in the community that they saw it on social media."

The decision to stay was "incredibly difficult," Cavazos said in a written statement.

"As I have previously stated, I was not looking for the opportunity when called to interview with Arlington ISD — yet the chance to positively impact more than 55,000 students is one worth considering for any educational leader," she continued.

Crystal Matern, G-PISD spokeseron, directed KERA News to the statement when asked for an interview with Cavazos.

Fowler said she did not believe communication "broke down" as stated in the press release.

She added that two board members, Aaron Reich and Sarah McMurrough, spoke with Cavazos hours before G-PISD issued a release. Cavazos told the members she looked forward to serving in Arlington, and that contract negotiations were going well.

"We were just totally shocked, especially the two that had spoken with her on the phone at 5 o' clock," Fowler said. "They'd left the conversation feeling really good and positive, and then we were just blindsided."

G-PISD made a counter offer to Cavazos to the tune of $265,000, according to the district's press release.

Fowler said she could not discuss details of AISD's offer.

Cavazos' announcement comes in the middle of a state-mandated 21-day waiting period before finalizing leadership changes.

Arlington ISD announced Cavazos as a lone finalist in early May. She would have succeeded Marcelo Cavazos — no relation — who has led the school district for 11 years.

The district announced Tuesday morning that Marcelo Cavazos will continue to serve as superintendent.

The board will discuss the search process during its Wednesday meeting, according to the press release. Discussions about the superintendent finalist and transition plan are listed on the meeting's agenda in a closed session.

Melody Fowler, AISD board president, said the board will consult with the Texas Association of School Boards, which served as a search firm.

"We had no plan B. We just thought everything as going fine and we found our superintendent," Fowler said.

Got a tip? Email Kailey Broussard at You can follow Kailey on Twitter @KaileyBroussard.

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Kailey Broussard is a reporter for KERA and The Texas Newsroom through Report for America (RFA). Broussard covers the city of Arlington, with a focus on local and county government accountability.