LA JOYA, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The findings of a Texas Education Agency hearing regarding the future of the La Joya school board were made public on Thursday.
The hearing was held in late August and requested by the school district after the TEA recommended the school board needed to be replaced by a board of managers after two board members and three administrators pleaded guilty to bribery, extortion, and theft charges.
The State Office of Administrative Hearings found the entire school board voted to spend $38 million to install LED lights on school campuses, even when former superintendent Alda Benavides cautioned the board against such a big investment when there was no evidence the lights would save the district money.
The contract was part of a criminal conspiracy that involved millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.
The administrative judges also concluded that while former school board President Oscar Salinas extorted an engineering firm, he was acting alone — not on behalf of the school board.
The findings have been sent to the agency’s commissioner, Mike Morath, who will make the final decision on whether to replace the school board with a board of managers.
A statement from the district reads:
La Joya Independent School District Response to Administrative Law Judge ‘s Findings. Yesterday, the La Joya Independent School District (LJISD) received the findings of fact and conclusions of law issued by an Administrative Law Judge from the State Office of Administrative Hearings as part of the appeal process to which LJISD is entitled. It’s crucial to clarify that these findings do not contain any specific recommendations. We respect the process and appreciate the review undertaken by the Administrative Law Judge. As we proceed, we now await a hearing before the Commissioner of Education. At this juncture, the Commissioner will make a determination on the next steps for our District. This could either be an alignment with the initial investigators’ recommendation to install a board of managers or, based on the evidence and actions taken by LJISD, a different course of action deemed appropriate. The La Joya Independent School District has been proactive and committed in our efforts to address and rectify concerns. Our Board and Administration have tirelessly worked to implement measures, uphold transparency, and emphasize our commitment to the educational excellence and well-being of our students. We are hopeful that our endeavors, dedication, and the tangible progress we’ve achieved will be recognized. Our sincere aspiration is for a decision that respects the voice of our community, upholds the integrity of elected representation, and most importantly, ensures the best interests of our students remain at the forefront. We thank our community and stakeholders for their continued support and trust. We remain committed to transparent communication and will ensure timely updates as we navigate this process.