By HEATHER CATHLEEN COX Staff Writer repo…@sbnewspaper.com
It all started back in May, when just two days after her reelection San Benito CISD School Board President Yliana G. Rodriguez signed her name to a letter to drop the district’s current insurance agent, Bob Treviño Insurance Group, and immediately instate Robert Champion Jr. of Salazar Insurance Group (SIG) as the new agent.
San Benito CISD Risk Manager Janie Gonzalez later said that it was Rodriguez who asked her to draft said letter.
The individual agent who earns this coveted position reportedly stands to make a six-figure salary in a district the size of San Benito. Because neither Gonzalez nor Rodriguez had the official capacity to make such a change, eyebrows were quickly raised by affected parties within the district.
Two days after submitting the letter, Rodriguez retracted it. Allegations were made against all parties involved, which ultimately led to the questioning of Gonzalez who admittedly typed the letter on district letterhead.
When asked specifically if she had had any e-mail contact with Champion or SIG, school district officials have reported that Gonzalez said she did not. Thereafter, e-mail contact between Gonzalez and Champion surfaced, in which Gonzalez thanked Champion for a lunch meeting and said she was looking forward to making the new changes that had been discussed between herself and Champion.
Superintendent of Schools Antonio G. Limón said he fired Gonzalez not for having had communication with Champion but rather for allegedly being untruthful about said communication.
Meanwhile, some school board trustees and members of the public expressed concern, charging that Rodriguez had broken policy in order to change the district’s insurance provider and began requesting an investigation into her intent and purposes. Before Gonzalez was fired, trustee Oscar Medrano requested that an investigation be launched into why Rodriguez would make such a decision.
Medrano was denied the request by Limón. The superintendent said that such a request cannot come from one board member but from the board as a collective unit. Medrano did not have support from the collective board, and no investigation was launched.
Gonzalez filed a grievance to appeal her dismissal from the district which was denied at the Level 3 petition. In a final hearing, at the last and ultimate Level 4, four board members, including the president, recommended that Limón reinstate Gonzalez. Three members, including Medrano, suggested that he not reinstate her.
Limón upheld his decision, and after a week of deliberation, denied her final request. Initially, Gonzalez’s attorney Cindy Garcia said her client would be planning a next course of action, which included slapping both the district and the superintendent with lawsuits.
In, Limón gave Janie Gonzalez her job back, remarking that she was “repentant,” and that in his 30 plus year career, he has often given employees second chances. This attitude was not shared by all parties concerned, especially Medrano, who is now requesting the board president’s roles and duties be listed and addressed as an action item for the board’s next regularly scheduled meeting.
“It’s important to be accountable,” Medrano said. “As officers, we need to review and go back to what are the roles and duties of each division, especially the president. The president has a huge responsibility of maintaining communication. I’m extremely disappointed in what has transpired…I want to discuss goals, duties and responsibilities of president.”
Additionally, Medrano mentioned that he has not forgotten the May letter. Medrano said, “Policy has been violated in regards to the (May) letter. The public is asking what will be done, and we’ll have to discuss it with the board as a whole. If there’s any determination, then we need to know about it.”
Medrano then urged citizens to take matters into their own hands. “The community has the option of calling the Texas Education Agency and filing a complaint if they have to,” he said. With this suggestion, the News took to the street to ask members of the community to see if they share the same urgency.
Diane Founds, 66, is a winter visitor from Ohio who said she enjoys her time in San Benito each year. Founds said, “The school board president isn’t going to be put it in place…(some board members) don’t want to be governed. But you have elections where you can remove members that you think are inappropriate, or you can complain to the appropriate people,” she said, speaking to Medrano’s comment that citizens with concerns can alert the TEA.
Contractor Sarlos Soto, 55, said “The citizens should call (TEA) and say whatever they need to say, because there is something wrong with this school board. Absolutely, citizens should call and present their opinion.”
“If there’s a concern of any impropriety received by even an anonymous source,” said Domingo Navarro, 63, “it makes the TEA feel like it’s a possibility there might be some truth to the issue (being presented). They don’t want to leave that pending. The board members saying there’s nothing to hide…have nothing to be afraid of.”
“It’s important for the public to have a voice,” said Mary Ann Olson, 72, a retired Registered Nurse. “We, the people who elected them… should have a voice and call them (TEA). I do pay taxes to SBCISD because I live in San Benito. I have an opinion.”
Other citizens who did not want to be named also called for an investigation into the matter, sentiments shared by dozens of commenters who’ve taken to sbnewspaper.com to share their thoughts.
Medrano invites concerned citizens to the board’s upcoming meeting, which will take place Tuesday, December 11. Medrano said, “I want to see the roles and duties of the president.” He further commented, “I am frustrated. I am only speaking for myself, but it seems like we are taking three steps forward and four back. It’s not productive, and I think in order for us to move forward in a positive way, we need a president that will communicate with us and be considerate of every board member’s needs. It’s a seven member board not just three.”
Attempts to reach Rodriguez for comment were unsuccessful as of presstime Friday
Editor’s Note: For more information on the San Benito insurance fiasco, type in “San Benito ISD” in the search box on this blog.