Judge grants restraining order against Texas Education Agency in Progreso ISD lawsuit

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Progreso school board President Juan Ramos Jr. (CBS 4 News)

2:20 p.m. Update: The Texas Education Agency released a statement:

“The judge granted the temporary restraining order (TRO) for Progreso,” according to the statement released by agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe. “This means installation of the board of managers will not take place this week. A temporary injunction hearing is scheduled for January 19.”

Check back for updates.

12:01 p.m. Update:  A state district judge granted the Progreso school district a temporary restraining order against the Texas Education Agency on Tuesday morning.

State District Judge Amy Clark Meachum granted the temporary restraining order during a Tuesday morning hearing in Travis County and ordered a follow-up hearing on Jan. 19.

Original Story: The Progreso school district filed a lawsuit against the Texas Education Agency on Monday, attempting to stop a state-appointed board of managers from replacing the school board.

Progreso wants a judge to sign a temporary restraining order, which would block Texas from replacing the elected, seven-member school board with a state-appointed, five-member board of managers.

“We are seeking a temporary restraining order, hopefully tomorrow morning, to try and prevent the board of managers from being installed on Thursday,” according to a statement from attorney Darren Gibson, who represents the school district.

Former Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams — who was replaced by Mike Morath on Monday — decided to replace the school board after a long-running corruption scandal. Williams formally notified Progreso about the decision last week, rejecting a last-ditch appeal from the district.

FBI agents spent nearly a decade investigating corruption in Progreso, according to federal court testimony.

Federal agents eventually secured indictments against district Transportation and Maintenance Director Jose Guadalupe “Lupe” Vela and his two sons — Progreso Mayor Omar Leonel Vela and school board President Michael “Mikey” Rene Vela.

All three men pleaded guilty to conspiracy and bribery charges.

The Texas Education Agency also investigated the school district, releasing a damning report that documented questionable payments to a restaurant owned by the Vela family and widespread hiring of family members by the district.

“Everything the TEA refers to happened in 2013 or earlier,” Gibson said, according to the statement. “They have not cited any wrongful or improper doings by the current board or administration to justify their actions.”

Voters replaced a majority of the Progreso school board after the corruption scandal.

In the lawsuit, Progreso claims the Texas Education Agency repeatedly failed to follow state regulations governing the process for replacing a school board. The lawsuit also claims the conservators appointed by the state acted erratically, questioning school board decisions months after they occurred.

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