TEA Orders Monitor to Oversee Donna ISD
DONNA – The Texas Education Agency recommended a monitor be appointed to the Donna Independent School District “because DISD has demonstrated that it lacks sufficient internal controls to allow the DISD Board of Trustees to comply with requirements of state law.”
The recommendation was included in a preliminary report issued on June 1. As the school district didn’t request an informal review, the preliminary report is now considered the final report.
The district's attorney said two if those former board trustees, Eloy Infante and Elpidio Yanez, plead guilty to bribery charges and were sentenced to prison. Infante and Yanez were convicted last year after they admitted to pressuring vendors to pay them or lose their contracts with the school district.
The TEA Special Investigations Unit served several notices of investigations after allegations of a former trustee failing to file conflict of interest disclosure statements and accepting monetary gifts from an existing contractor/vendor. This is a violation of Texas Local Government Code 176.003. In the agency’s report, TEA officials reported the school board trustee served as the school district team doctor for the athletic program and served on the district’s workers’ compensation committee for which he was a provider.
Investigators also said four former board members allegedly influences or restricted the political affairs of teachers and infringed on the authority of the superintendent when it came to administrative responsibility.
The state said this shows the district lacks sufficient internal controls to allow the school board to fall in line with state laws.
The risk management consultant and a second board member reportedly confronted the board member about the potential conflict of interest. The risk management consultant told TEA officials the two board members exchanged “heated words” during board and committee member meetings.
The risk management consultant also stated his advice to the trustee to step down from voting due to the potential conflict of interest was ignored.
A second finding involved two other board members who each solicited $10,000 in exchange for assuring a vendor the district would not end their contract with the firm.
The TEA report also referenced an $880,000 settlement made last April. A jury rendered a verdict against the school district and four school board members for reassigning or demoting district employees based on the employees’ exercise of their rights to associate with political groups.
The monitor that will oversee the district is identified as Linda Romeros. She is a representative with T.E.A. Romeros will report her findings to the Commissioner of Education and will also be recommending any additional actions to make sure the district stays in compliance with state education laws.
It is unknown when Romeros will begin her monitoring or how long it will last. The district will have to pay her $75 an hour for her services.