Southside Isd Board Settle for $120,000 & Make Her Board Member of the Year
SISD Trustee Gets her day in court. Claims discrimination and asks for up to $850,000.
Under Superintendent Dr. Mard Herrick and board members: Pres, Andrew Herrera, Margie Lopez, Craig Knapp, Lisa Salazar, Juan Silva, Loren Brewer and Tony Luna; Ms. Alma Estrada filed a Level III Grievance. On May 22, 2006, the board met to discuss and vote on the grievance. Mr. Knapp made the motion to grant the original grievance and more specifically and limited to recognize Ms. Estrada for her role in filling the position, temporarily for the Maintenance Director and additionally she would be given an opportunity to receive an interview for said position as determined by the Superintendent.
Ms. Estrada did not meet the education background for said position; the board majority then created a position of Maintenance Manager and Ms. Estrada was promoted.
It was long before Ms. Guzman was terminated from her position and she filed a lawsuit against the district.
Judge rules in favor of Southside ISD
After several days to go over all the information, the judge rules in favor of the Southside Independent School District. He found that the reasons for firing Ms. Guzman were "legitimate, non-discriminatory and not pretextual".
In layman's terms, Ms. Guzman was minding everyone's business, but her own. It was proven that Ms. Guzman:
- was gossiping about an alleged affair of her supervisor
- was creating a division within the employees in her department
- used racist comments when speaking about a certain employee
- emailed the superintendent because she had not been invited to a party
Ms. Guzman's case has proven that a board of friends and family members are never a good mix. It's diversity of the board that keeps it running legally and morally. The quickest way to corrupt is to have a majority or "team" board.
Outspoken in the community, quiet on the board?
2006: Ms. Guzman, Southside Employee:
- Filed a Level III Grievance (meaning that she first took it to her supervisor, then to the superintendent and then to the board, not being satisfied with each level decision)
- Open Forum at School Board Meeting in May: Spoke about job reclassification
- Open Forum at School Board Meeting in June: Complained about employee salaries and leave time.
- Open Forum at School Board Meeting in Aug: Thanked the board for 6% raise. Talked about good changes she'd seen since hiring Dr. Del Barrio and spoke on keeping him as Superintendent.
- Open Forum at School Board Meeting in Sept: Happy with board and changes being made.
- Open Forum at School Board Meeting in Oct: Read a letter on behalf of Javier Garcia supporting Dr. Del Barrio for Superintendent.
Ms. Guzman's action speak louder than words
Ms. Guzman filed an appeal
Ms. Guzman's attorney recommended that she stay on the school board.
Members of the community with knowledge of Ms. Guzman and her history; believed Ms. Guzman was using her term on the board to help advance her case or at the very least, give it time for her friends to get elected to the board and reverse the previous boards decisions.
Ms. Guzman remained on the board. The only other fear that community members expressed was that now that she had lost her case; her board participation will be out of spite or merely to continue being a disruption, while the appeal process goes on.
New Board- Settlement on the Way
SOUTHSIDE ISD HELD A BOARD MEETING ON JULY 16, 2013 AT 6 PM.
AGENDA ITEM IN CLOSED MEETING:
Consultation with School Attorney Regarding Pending Litigation and Possible SETTLEMENT of Civil Action No. 5:12-CV-9. Alma Guzman-Estrada v. Southside Independent School District, United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Judicial Circuit.
While any action to this item must be disclosed during open session. The newly elected board's lack of transparency and patterned behavior has shown in the last two major decisions
- firing of Dr. Jasso Superintendent,
- settlement with friend of board members Brewer and Chavez
would have them make a motion "as per closed session" leaving the community once again to guess what those actions are.
More Grandstanding or Legal Snag
The "team" met to discuss the possible settlement for Alma Guzman- Estrada. The case in the hands of the 5th Circuit Court of appeals with things are not looking good for Ms. Guzman, she decided to re-visit the possibility of negotiation for a settlement. The amount while it was not disclosed would still be too much; even if it were $1. The case having been through two courts and found without merit should not have received a settlement.
Legal experts say, In a case that is being won, there is no justifiable cause to settle. Why settle, when you are winning?
It was construed as possible payment to Ms. Guzman-Estrada for her help in getting her friends and cohorts elected. Justifying the rumor of a campaign promise that was the talk of the community.
The outcome of the meeting; they needed more time. So, this item on the agenda was nothing more than grandstanding or the board hit a legal snag that kept them from giving their friend the settlement she's asking for. Either way, in the end, Ms. Guzman was awarded $120,000 by her team.
Ms. Mendelsohn says it all...
No More Speculation: Mendelsohn clarifies it
Ms. Mendelsohn, former board president of ESD#6 and campaign manager for Sergio Chico Rodriguez was behind the push for these members to get on the Southside ISD School board. Out one point it was merely speculation, until Ms. Mendelsohn made it perfectly clear.
Ms.Guzman- Estrada on many occasions denied any ties to this group. However, Ms. Mendelsohn recently let the Southside Community know which members of the board she backs, to include the Superintendent, Ricardo R. Vela. Whom the "team" made room for by firing Dr. Juan Jasso.
Right to File a Law Suit---What will it cost the children
Ms. Alma Estrada, aka Alma Rosa Guzman, a former employee of Southside ISD ran her campaign on doing what was right for the children. All the while, Ms. Guzman was involved in an EEOC complaint against the district. Ms. Guzman was asked by several community members how she could be suing the district and still be running for the board. Her claim to the community was that "she" was not suing the district, but that the EEOC was pushing for it, deceiving the voters from day one. EEOC does not push anyone into a lawsuit and Ms. Estrada had to request a clearance to sue from the EEOC.
Elected Southside ISD trustee and former Southside ISD employee, Alma Estrada requested and received a letter from the EEOC giving her the right to file a lawsuit. The EEOC investigated the allegations and found no merit, but it is clear by an article in the local paper, that Ms. Guzman still made the request for the letter, which would allow legal action against the district.
Ms. Guzman has a history of filing lawsuits against the district as she had done it several times during her 30 years working at the district. Only in this lawsuit the stakes got higher. Ms. Guzman is requested a settlement of approximately $850,000; that is just under $1 Million dollars. The taxpaying members of the community have been diligent in watching how the Southside ISD is spending their money as it pertains to education, however, until the article broke in the local paper, many of them were not aware of the blatant misrepresentation that Ms. Guzman gave of herself to her community. Her disregard for the funds that she would take from the districts budget were just to bewildering to fathom by members of her community. She had said that she would be willing to settle for $600,000.
The Southside ISD school board made a motion at their meeting to authorize district staff to prepare for the legal battle should Ms. Guzman proceed with her plans. This motion would allow the district to counter sue Ms. Guzman for the attorney's fees, so that the district could reclaim expenses to the district. Ms.Guzman claimed that she was not given equal treatment and unjustly terminated.
A year later, the Southside community was watching to see which road Ms. Guzman would take. The high road and do what's right for the district she represents or the other road, that takes away funds from the community; when the members of the Southside ISD board are working hard to keep the school moving in the right direction with less funds and the community members that work for the district are having to sacrifice for the good of the children and to hold on to jobs during these economic times.
Ms. Guzman quickly made it perfectly clear; it was one of financial gain. Continuing down the path of the lawsuit and getting her day in court.
The Judge Has Spoken
Ms. Guzman had her day in court, the decision; now in the hands of the federal judge found that Ms. Guzman's case had no merit and the School district was within it's legal rights.
Ms. Guzman now saying that she was fired as retaliation for her speaking out and questioning her salary. During the testimony phase, it was learned that Ms. Guzman was creating dissension among the employees in her department, used inappropriate remarks towards an employee and gossiped about an alleged affair that her supervisor was having, to include confronting him on what would be deemed a personal issue.
Photo & Camera Bargains: Photo & Camera Bargains
Chaching! More money out the door and into the hands of friends..
The Southside ISD "TEAM" decided to give Alma Guzman-Estrada her money. Not that anyone doubted that this board would do exactly as they had promised Ms. Guzman-Estrada. She gave them her support and they gave her money. The amount unknown, as the "team' is not known for it's transparency, the motion was made "as stated in closed session."
However, the "town crier" Ms. Cantu was quick to defend the decision, claiming that the deposition backed up the decision. Since Ms. Cantu is not a member of the board, nor a member of the legal team, it once again showed that the "team" at the helm of Southside ISD was discussing board agenda items with members of their support team and showing them classified documents. As Ms. Cantu could be heard saying that she found them online. That is not the case as pending case documents are not online. However, it was brought up at the Southside ISD school board meeting that fees for $120,000 were paid to an attorney, when questioned, the non-transparent board and interim superintendent refused to answer the question and instead admitted to the fact that it was a settlement; that was as far as they would go.
Unless the district had other pending lawsuits, which an investigation showed none. It would be easy to believe that the $120,000 is indeed the settlement for Ms. Guzman-Estrada.
Mr. Cannon was heard saying that he did not support the board on the decision to give Ms. Guzman-Estrada her money, but he didn't vote against her, instead he didn't attend the meeting. Showing that he would not do anything to go against his relatives and friends that made up the Southside ISD board.
Mr. Martinez and Mr. Knapp were absent, pending family health issues.
The "team" finally discloses the settlement.
October 1, 2013, the Southside ISD held a special board meeting and one of the items on the agenda was to finally come clean with the community and admit to giving Ms. Guzman-Estrada $120,000 in settlement.
The board members had been under pressure by the community and had a formal complaint filed by two members of the community to have the public record information revealed to the taxpaying community of Southside ISD.
The "team" created a statement and voted to accept it as part of open records and allow them to read it to the community. Too little too late, Mr. Martinez and Mr. Knapp abstained from the vote.
Mr. Martinez and Mr. Knapp were not made aware of a previous board meeting, nor did they receive the monthly information packets pertaining to Ms. Guzman-Estrada's impending settlement, as was brought up at the following board meeting. Mr. Chavez made an open record apology to Mr. Martinez, admitting that they had not included two of the board members in a decision pertaining to the district.
Costs the district hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars.....votes herself Board Member of the Year
Southside ISD board trustees decided on January 14, 2014, to award the title of Board Member of the Year to Alma Guzman. The same board member that cost the district thousands of dollars in legal fees and an additional $120,000 taxpayer dollars, in a settlement agreement that most in the community found to be unethical.
If arrogance or ignorance on the part Ms. Guzman; it is not known, but she voted to give herself the Board Member of the Year Award after being nominated by Mr. Frank Cannon. A move that has not been done at Southside ISD. The board has not singled out one particular board member for this honor because the board works together as a whole. Making all members equal. Under the current board configuration, it is evident by the actions that no dead goes without a public pat on the back.
Does anyone see anything different?
The pictured checks due to the sequence in number came from the same registry at Southside ISD, yet one can be seen as a check and was verified by someone with knowledge of district registry. The other, could not be identified as it does not show any district information.
Legal Blog Follows Guzman Case
- Southside ISD Trustee Loses Trial : San Antonio Employment Law Blog
Alma Guzman-Estrada worked for Southside Independent School District for 30 years. She was fired. She sued Southside ISD for discrimination and retali
Is this board member's behavior ethical?
© 2011 Lady Liberty