Southeast Bexar County Community Awareness: Southside ISD still on road to recovery, bond issue?
All done wrong
Southside ISD is a community on the farthest south east side of Bexar County. The district voted for Mendelsohn supporters beginning in 2011. Community members call them minions of Sylvia Ruiz Mendelsohn, whom she had control of when they sat beneath her on the Emergency Service District #6 board. The "team" was made up of current board member, Loren Brewer and Norberto Chavez, recently ousted, Alma Guzman, Daniel Rodriguez, John Wood, Mr. Tony Luna who stepped down and Mr. Frank Cannon, who chose not to run for re-election after his arrest at the district.
With more interest in getting a hold of district funds and expanding the athletic department; by hiring additional and unnecessary staff, building new facilities, remodeling facilities and putting in a jumbo tron score board, purchasing $8,000 plus on Flags for the athletic department they squandered the funds that had been set aside for district growth. In May alone, before the school board elections, the district paid $187,000 for the installation of the Jumbo-tron and speakers. Additional funds were spent on the score board totaling $3,000 with Crawford electric. This on top of the actual cost of the score board.
The newly elected board may be struggling to fix the mess left behind by the "team", but they have shown signs of working to get it done.
The "teams" first item of importance within weeks of being sworn in was to spend millions on artificial turf before the season started. Aug 7, 2014, the district and the Booster club spend funds to kick off the season with a tailgate party, highlighting the new turf and fresh new logo on the 50 yard line. Mission accomplished, yes, but the turf now has a mascot that has been reported to the district as a copy right infringement and is under investigation. Several years prior when Mr. Brewer sat on and controlled the school board, they removed the historical school mascot and adopted the mascot in question. The district was then called to the mat by a university for infringement and was removed. Records show that the district ran a contest to pick a new cardinal mascot at the time. Upon the "teams" return to reign, they went back to using "their" mascot, which is now creating a dilemma for the sitting board. In July 2015, it was reported that the University of Louisville was now questioning the legality of the districts mascot.
Mr Luna didn't go away he just relocated for more money
Mr. Luna, former educator, former Maintenance employee at Southside ISD and former board member (he ran, was elected and stepped down within weeks making it suspiciously, so that they could appoint a member of their team that may not have been able to pull the votes). As the Team took control, he was re-hired at the district with a new title and hefty pay raise: Executive Director of Operations & Construction. Under his management, friends and family have been hired to do work for the district, to include the son of Interim Superintendent Joe Gonzales. The issues from hiring non qualified individuals and back door deals is now surely causing the sitting board migraines and the district money to take care of and settle faulty work issues brought on by Mr. Luna and the "team".
What a mess!
Do you feel the mess they "team" left will be a distraction for the new board?
The "team" rallied the community around the food service department and it's lacking of good quality food. Mr. Brewer was the town crier when it came to meal prices and the districts food service provider. The saying, "you get what you pay for" could explain the issue. The district could have gotten better meals if they had gone up on the price a bit, but Mr. Brewer and his "team" felt it was to much to charge.
The "team" got elected and the cost of lunches went up, the cost to provide self operational food service meals went up and the district will have to dish out more money in order to continue providing these meals, to include the cost of renovating their facilities and put in a storage facility which could cost the district over a million dollars to store their food products. Mr. Brewer would like his community to believe that the board before the "team" took over had already voted to put a storage facility in, but there is not record of an agenda item to show that this was the case. It is highly unlikely that the previous board would have needed a storage facility for food as they had voted in the past and records clearly show that it happened just before the team took over; to renew the contract for Aramark to continue providing the districts meals. It was Mr. Brewer and his team who went back and cancelled the Aramark contract.
Records show that in a monthly period they paid Aramark $37,000 dollars, approximately for providing food service. Since going self operational, the district has spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on kitchen repairs, additional salaries and approx. $55,000 for produce, milk products and bread, this does not include the main courses and the deliveries from vendors like Sysco and Labbatt.
One can rest assured that if Mr. Brewer is trying to convince the community that a previous board needed this facility, it is because Mr. Brewer is wanting this facility and after the type of decisions he made at the district, community members are finding his idea a hard one to swallow.
Semantics- calling a dog a cow, it's still a dog...
Aug 13, 2015- The Southside ISD agenda references a Multi-Purpose Facility. This is not to be confused with the storage facility. This is one and the same, Athletic center. While Mr. Brewer was a member of the ESD #6, they used semantics to try to acquire a loan to build Ms. Mendelsohns' community center. As a community center they could not get state loans or grants, but as an Evacuation center, it qualified. Ms. Mendelsohn was recorded at a meeting saying it was just semantics, a moral individual would call it a lie.
Mr. Brewer is still preaching to the community about the need for a Multi- Purpose facility, and yes the Athletes could still use it. He has also been telling community members that "they" set aside $4 million dollars for this facility. A facility that is listed at having a $6- $11 million dollar price tag, depending on the extras.
The community is in arms over "Bonds", not wanting a bond election to raise funds and taxes. The districts overcrowding due to influx of oil field workers and their families has the district in need of educational facilities; however, the "teams" expenditures left the district without funds to fulfill the obligation. The current board has not issued for a bond election, instead working to lower the payments on the existing bonds as the "team" did, to get extra money to cover the bind that the teams elaborate spending put the district in.
One example of elaborate spending or better yet, waste of funds: the team allowed the purchase of a used HEB trailer (cargo area) costing the district thousands of dollars and of no use to the district. The district does not own an 18 wheeler to haul the trailer with.
The Vela's are gone
Southside ISD school board, opted to buy out the contract of Ricardo Vela and his wife, something that Vela has grown good at negotiating, as he did with previous employers. Some community members are angered, others are just relieved. Others have said the current board was bullied by Mr. Brewer to settle, only the board will know the reason why?
The community can rest assured that Mr. Vela is no longer an employee of the district, the only issue and of concern to the community members is his ties to many that are still in the district.
Interim Superintendent said they had $24 Million
The day the current board members were sworn in, May 2015, then Deputy Superintendent Joe Gonzales gave an elaborate speech about the district and it's great strides, from scores to finances. During his speech, he eluded to the fact that they used grants to cover expenses and that the school district had $24 million in their fund balance and were financially solvent.
Joe Gonzales and the board need to have a town hall meeting and explain to the community where the $24 million dollars is and exactly where their tax dollars have gone, what the district lost in hiring unqualified individuals to work on district facilities, etc. After the last few years of lack of transparency, the board and Joe Gonzales, owe the community nothing more than to let them know where they are financially, why and how they are planning on fixing the issues.
Many in the district remain skeptical when it comes to Joe Gonzales at the helm of the district because of his past history and his familial ties to Ricardo Vela & his wife, as their children are married to each other, making them as Hispanics call them "compadres".
The Southside community will rest easier, once they have sifted through the applications and have the process of hiring a Superintendent underway. Since this was an agenda item, the district should be well on it's way to some conclusion.
Some feel that Mr. Brewer and Ms. Mendelsohn will continue to push for one of their own at the helm. It will be interesting to see the outcome of this replacement.