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UCISD offering Chohlis $198K


Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District is offering Ashley Chohlis $198,000 to serve as the district’s next superintendent.

School trustees are scheduled to convene for a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 28 to ratify Chohlis’s contract. Should she accept, Chohlis will take over the superintendent seat full time starting the following day. 

Chohlis is being offered $28,000 more than former superintendent Hal Harrell earned in his last year, and about $45,000 less than interim superintendent Gary Patterson’s estimated salary.

Patterson’s pay of $1,000 per day, plus a $75 travel allowance, works out to about $243,000 if he were to work every day of a standard 226-day superintendent contract. Harrell made $170,000. 

The proposed salary is roughly the median salary for superintendents in Texas school districts with enrollments between 3,000 and 5,000 students, according to a Texas Association of School Boards salary study issued for the 2023-24 school year. UCISD’s enrollment is more than 4,000 this year. The district said it followed this metric when determining what salary to offer. 

During the 2022-23 school year, the average superintendent salary among all Texas school districts with a 3,000-5,000 student enrollment was $198,431, according to Texas Education Agency data. Among the 12 districts in Region 20 that fall within this enrollment range, that average was $170,316 last year. 

Chohlis comes to the district from Poth ISD, a school district of 935 where she started her first superintendent role in May 2022 and made $126,000. Before that, she held a handful of roles at East Central ISD, where she worked for 26 years. Patterson previously oversaw East Central ISD for 14 years. 

The Nov. 28 meeting will follow a state-mandated 21-day waiting period that began Nov. 6 when Chohlis was named the district’s finalist to replace Patterson. Patterson, who joined the district in November 2022 following the resignation of former superintendent Hal Harrell, was always meant to serve in an interim capacity. 

When Chohlis officially takes over, Patterson will continue working with the district for what it called “a few days” to assist Chohlis through the transition, according to the district. He will continue making the same pay rate during this time. 

Application process

The district began the superintendent search process in late August, and interviews were conducted in late October and early November. 

UCISD says applicants were evaluated by their qualifications, experience, communication skills, problem-solving abilities, and overall demeanor, the district said. 

“The applicant’s philosophy was also assessed to ensure their goals and values aligned with the organization’s mission,” district spokesperson Anne Marie Espinoza wrote. 

As for Chohlis, the board was drawn to her passion for education and commitment to student success, she said.

“Her academic expertise, technical skills, and years of experience in the field also made her stand out from other applicants,” Espinoza wrote, adding that trustees found her easy to communicate with and connect to.

The district did not answer questions related to whether anyone from within the district applied for the role, where applicants were from, how far the reach or the search was, whether Patterson spoke with trustees about working with Chohlis previously, or how the board specifically decided Chohlis was the proper fit for the district.

“As you may already know, the search process for a superintendent is an important task that requires careful consideration and planning,” Espinoza said. “There are specific details that must remain confidential.”

It did say, however, that more than 30 people applied, that applicants came from both in and out of state, and that Patterson did not participate in or attend interviews with candidates. 

Sofi Zeman (szeman@ulnnow.com, 830-278-3335) covers education and crime for the Uvalde Leader-News as a Report for America corps member. Report for America (www.reportforamerica.org) is a national service program that places talented emerging journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities across the United States and its territories.