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TEA To Replace Board, Superintendent Of Harlandale ISD

Pixabay CC0 http://bit.ly/2n0vH0h
Pixabay CC0 http://bit.ly/2n0vH0h

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath notified the Harlandale Independent School District Tuesday that he will find replacements for the district’s superintendent and elected board of trustees.

Morath’s decision follows a two-year investigation into Harlandale in response to allegations of nepotism, unfair contract procurement practices and violations of the Open Meetings Act.In a final report released earlier this month, investigators with the Texas Education Agency said they found extensive evidence of contract violations and board business conducted through text messages. Investigators said they did not have sufficient evidence to support the allegations of nepotism.

Morath also told trustees and Superintendent Rey Madrigal that he was lowering Harlandale’s 2018-2019 accreditation status to Accredited-Warned “because the district exhibits serious or persistent deficiencies.”

The commissioner went on to say that TEA’s investigation found “a substantial and imminent threat to the welfare of the district’s students and to the public interest because the board of trustees is unable to govern the district.”

                    Read the commissioner's letter to Harlandale

Findings highlighted by Morath include:

  • Superintendent Rey Madrigal made four payments and agreements without board approval
  • Trustees approved six contract amendments above legal limits
  • Harlandale approved contracts without a proper bidding process
  • Trustees “acted individually on behalf of the board” and “exceeded the scope of their authority.”

Ricardo Moreno, the president of Harlandale’s board of trustees, said Tuesday that he understood TEA’s position but he “respectfully disagrees with their decision.”
“We’ve done some great things at our district in terms of (standardized test) scores, with our recent scores that we have,” Moreno said. “So I don’t think necessarily that we’ve impeded on the quality of instruction our students are gaining.”

Moreno said he felt the board had also addressed the financial concerns outlined in the report. 

“We’ve continued to work within the parameters, and we continued to follow what our legal counsel has suggested,” Moreno said. “Ultimately I think we’ve always worked in the best interest of our district.”

Harlandale has until July 9 to request a formal review of the appointment of the board of managers and the lowered accreditation status.

Moreno said he and the rest of the trustees will discuss the commissioner’s letter before deciding how to respond.

The commissioner will announce Harlandale’s new superintendent and board of managers at a later date. 

Like the state-appointed boards at Southside and Edgewood, a majority of Harlandale’s board of managers will be members of the Harlandale community.

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@TPR.org and on Twitter at @cmpcamille.

Camille Phillips can be reached at camille@tpr.org, on Instagram at camille.m.phillips and on Twitter at @cmpcamille. TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.