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Southeast Bexar County Awareness: School Boards- What happened to the good guys?
South San Independent School District
South San school district has been involved in turmoil for years, dating back to the board member that was sent to prison. This year, the school board fired their Superintendent Ron Durban for failing to do diligence regarding pornography found on the district's computers and also for filing a restraining order against two of it's board members, that he personally sued. While this case was still pending, the district set aside roughly $267,000 for legal fees.
Another issue with this district also involved the son of the Superintendent, who works as a coach for the district. It seems that funds from the Athletic department were missing to the tune of about $18,000, after hiring an auditor to go over the books, the amount was found to be in access of over $22,000. Investigations still pending, so there is no telling what else will be found out about the district.
Remember When Being an Elected Board Member Was an Honor
What do Southside ISD, Harlandale ISD and South San ISD have in common? Board members that are out for their own personal interests, squandering the taxpayers money and stealing from the children.
Remember the day when a community member ran for a school board position to do what was right for the children; in hopes of making the right decisions that would give them a better start in life than what they had.
Sadly, the same cannot be said today for many of those that run for positions on school boards. You can't turn on the t.v. or pick up a paper or even go online without seeing how someone has disgraced the position that they swore to uphold.
Corruption and mismanagement is running rampid in Bexar County school districts. Since I prefer to cover the Southern region of Bexar County because these people are always getting overlooked, I found three school districts with problems this year alone.
Southside Independent School District
Alma Rosa Guzman, worked for the Southside Independent School District for 30 years, under the name Alma Estrada at least from 2006 until she was terminated in 2010. A name she dropped after her employment was terminated and she decided to file an EEOC complaint. She has since run for a position on the school board and filed a lawsuit against the district. Ran for re-election and lost in May 2015.
Written articles said that Ms. Guzman's position on the school board was an injustice to the districts taxpayers because she was asking for nearly $850,000 from the district to drop her lawsuit and go away. The board as a whole (6-0) voted to consider a counter claim for a frivolous lawsuit by Ms. Guzman in which the district could reclaim its expenses from Ms. Guzman if the lawsuit is found in favor of the district. The lawsuit was filed after Ms. Guzman requested a letter from the EEOC that would allow her to sue the district, even after the EEOC complaint found there was no substantiation to of any of Ms. Guzman's claims.
The question that stood out in this case, by the reporter, was how can Ms. Guzman be involved in a lawsuit and be involved in the decision making for the district when she is constantly looking for things to strengthen her case against the district she is suing?
According to the districts website information (board minutes); since Ms. Guzman became a member of the districts school board; she has on the whole voted with the board on most issues. She did however vote against keeping the food service managment group that the district uses; this was a campaign promise she ran on. She also voted on June 29, 2011 against extending the superintendents contract for one more year and on September 22, 2011 she voted against the purchase of new trucks for the maintenance department. The department she managed for the district while she was employed there. When the "team" took control, they spent over $150,000 on trucks for the district.
According to articles and board minutes of 2006 alone, there was a definite pattern to Ms. Guzman-Estrada's outspokenness. During her election, Ms. Guzman attended the Mayors Candidate Forum in which the Mayor commented on the fact of possibly giving a portion of the city's tax revenue to education, Ms. Guzman's reply was that "he should have done it sooner."
The year 2006 (minutes- quickly removed from the website); Ms. Guzman (Estrada) attended several meetings and spoke in open forum as well as filed another level III grievance against the district.
- February 27, 2006, she spoke in open forum and expressed concern on issue of district employment practices.
- March 26, 2006, she spoke in open forum and expressed concerns with February board minutes and requested an investigation into administrator's pay raises as well as concerns with the athletic department. By May of 2015, Ms. Guzman and the "team" had spent most of the school funding on athletics facilities, coaches and administrator created positions and their salaries.
- April 24, 2006, she filed a Level III grievance with the district.
- May 22, 2006, Craig Knapp made a motion to grant a Level III grievance in favor of Ms. Guzman-Estrada and additionally given the opportunity to receive an interview for the position of Maintenance Director. The motion was seconded by Lisa Salazar, President.
- June 1, 2006, she spoke during open forum about employee salaries and leave time.
- August 24, 2006, as spokesperson for hourly employees, she thanked the board and Dr. Del Barrio for the 6% raises. She also talked about the many good changes they have seen Dr. Del Barrio making and would like to see him given the opportunity to serve as the superintendent.
- September 5, 2006, she spoke during Open Forum about changes being made and is "happy" with this board. She sees them making the right decisions.
- October 19, 2006, she read a letter in Open Forum on behalf of a Javier Garcia supporting Dr. Del Barrio, Interim Superintendent. It was at this meeting that Mr. Knapp made the motion to approve her for the position of Maintenance Manager.
Ms. Guzman, heavily campaigned for her friends during their campaigns to the School Board in 2013. Adding three of them to the school board and giving them a 5 person vote on a 7 person board. The lawsuit while found without merit in court and then sent to the appellate court by Ms. Guzman, gave her the time to work diligently to get her friends elected and in turn, they brought the issue back to the district and voted to settle with Ms. Guzman for $120,000.
Southside ISD appears to hold the number one spot when it comes to corruption, mismanagement and amoral behavior among board members.
Harlandale Independent School District
While, Harlandale ISD is not new to scandal, seeing as how news reporter Brian Collister has been covering or should I say uncovering them for years, the latest is rather disturbing during these tough economic times and the issues at hand.
The Harlandale school board recently fired it's law firm amidst claims of poor legal advice and being over billed by the law firm. Other allegations and ongoing investigations include the bookkeeper that was writing checks to herself from the district account and is caught up in a he said- she said with the truth of what actually happened with the districts funding; as well the hefty pay raise for the superintendent, have put Harlandale ISD in hot water again.
To add insult to injury, according to Jay Alaniz, board member for Harlandale ISD, the board has approved the auditing of their books, but they have had "no takers". No auditing firm will touch the district and so far an audit has not been done.
Board member Josh Cerna gets caught coming out of the closet. Accused of having an affair with a school employee and caught well after hours in her home, her husband called the police, after suspicion of an extramarital affair between Mr. Cerna and his wife. The report said, Mr. Cerna took cover in the closet.
Should these board members be held accountable for their actions?
How Is This Doing Right By a Child's Education?
What hurts the most, is not the media attention or the damage of the image of the district. It's the blatant stealing of funds for education.
News today gets replaced by tomorrows news and people forget, but the shortage of money due to theft and oversight hurts America's children and their future. These three districts fall in a predominantly minority portion of the county. The families struggle and a good education is a way out for a lot of these children.
People that take from them should not only be ashamed of themselves, but they should be made to pay restitution.