Leadership of Rio Grande City school district remains unclear

Four members of the Rio Grande City school board are requesting a restraining order against interim Superintendent Roel Gonzalez to prohibit him from being within 300 feet of any school district buildings or facilities.

The motion filed in court is the latest development in the ongoing battle between two factions of the school board.

Four board members held a school board meeting earlier this week, the first meeting since March.

During the meeting on May 28, the four attending board members — Eleazar Velasquez, Daria “Dr. B.” Babineaux, Leticia O. Lopez, and Daniel J. Garcia — finalized the hiring of Vilma Garza as their new superintendent. They also approved the replacement of their attorney and reorganized the board, naming a new board president and board secretary.

However, interim Superintendent Roel Gonzalez posted a statement that evening on the school district’s website stating he would remain in his position.

“The meeting being conducted by four (4) board members has been deemed to be in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act,” Gonzalez stated. “As a result, I shall continue to serve our District until such time as I am ordered by the Court of Appeals to remove myself from office.”

Previous attempts by those four board members to hold a meeting were thwarted by two other board members, Eduardo “Eddie” Ramirez and Basilio “Bacho” Villarreal, who filed restraining orders against the other four members.

At the conclusion of a hearing on the temporary restraining order on May 17, the two factions appeared to have reached an agreement on the process for calling meetings, an agreement that was signed by visiting state District Judge Carlos Valdez.

However, the two sides continued to butt heads, leading Valdez to order that a meeting be held on May 23. That meeting didn’t happen, though, as Ramirez and Villarreal appealed the order to the Fourth Court of Appeals.

While that appeal remained, and continues to be, pending, the four members scheduled the aforementioned May 28 meeting during which they approved major changes.

One of those was the termination of Ruben Peña, the school district’s attorney for the school district. However, Peña argued the meeting violated the open meetings act because the board members allegedly did not follow the procedures of posting notice of the meeting 72 hours in advance.

Velasquez, however, did physically post notice of the meeting on May 24 which is within the required time, although Gonzalez had a school district police officer remove the notice later that day, according to court documents. Velasquez posted a notice again the next day and that notice was also removed.

As reported, however, the board members proceeded to meet despite the removal of the notice.

As he wrote in the statement, Gonzalez refused to leave his position the next day as the interim superintendent when approached by Velasquez with a termination letter.

Then on Friday, the four board members filed counterclaim, asking that Gonzales be prohibited from coming within 300 feet of any of the school district’s schools, building, and facilities.

They also requested that the meeting be deemed to not be in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act.

At stake, they argued, was the ability for summer school to begin as scheduled on Monday.

Because Gonzalez refusal to leave his position, Garza — as the new superintendent — cannot call a board meeting to begin summer school, to finalize the annual school budget, or to have the board approve expenses over $5,000.

“At the present time, she does not even have access to approve any school function, school budget, summer school schedules, or any RGCCISD business as the terminated interim superintendent refused to leave the RGCCISD premises,” they state in the counterclaim.

On Friday, Valdez, who had ordered the May 23 meeting that was then appealed, filed a response to the Fourth Court Appeals to clarify the facts of the case.

“It is plainly apparent to the trial court, based on all factors involved in the case, that the governmental function of the Rio Grande City Consolidated Independent School District is irretrievably broken,” Valdez wrote to the appeals court. “Without judicial intervention, important business of the school district will remain undone, thereby resulting in possible harm to the school district.”