While the Rio Grande City school district awaits a court decision to clear up who currently holds its top administrative position, interim Superintendent Roel Gonzalez said he and newly appointed Superintendent Vilma Garza are working well together to ensure the district continues running smoothly.
“We meet every day at 7:30 in the morning — we meet for close to two hours — and this afternoon we’re meeting with all the staff,” Gonzalez said of the current working situation with Garza. “We have a very good working relationship — she’s involved in everything we do.”
He said that despite the murky legal situation, summer school was able to begin as scheduled and assured that everything was “working as normal.”
Garza said Gonzalez has been gracious to her and given her the opportunity to get situated.
“For me, right now, it’s a period of listen and learn while all this mess gets resolved,” she said. “Everybody’s been very receptive and I’ve had conversations and meetings with different departments. It’s going extremely well. I’ve worked with this staff before, I’m from the community, I know everyone so it has become a pleasant transition.
“We are working together to make everything possible for the children and the students and teachers.”
Gonzalez previously served as the superintendent for the school district for approximately 11 years, from July 2003 to December 2014.
During Gonzalez’s tenure, Garza was director of technology, curriculum director, GT director and then assistant superintendent for curriculum instruction.
Prior to that, she was a principal and taught fourth grade for 10 years in the district.
“I know I’m stepping out soon, hopefully it’ll be Friday — it all depends on the Fourth Court of Appeals — I just want to hand the baton to them and that’s it.”
The uncertainty over who is running the district arose from conflict between two factions of the school board.
One faction — comprised of Eleazar Velasquez, Daria “Dr. B.” Babineaux, Leticia O. Lopez and Daniel J. Garcia — had been attempting to meet since March to finalize Garza’s hiring and to approve other matters.
However, another faction of the board — consisting of Eduardo “Eddie” Ramirez and Basilio “Bacho” Villarreal — blocked the members from holding a meeting.
A visiting state district judge eventually ordered the board to hold a meeting on May 23; however, Ramirez and Villarreal appealed the order to the Fourth Court of Appeals which immediately stayed the order to meet.
Since then, however, the four board members have been able to hold another meeting — held on May 28 — to take action on the items they had been seeking to approve since March.
Among the items they were able to approve on May 28 were the reorganization of the board, the finalization of Garza’s hiring as the new superintendent, the termination of their attorney and the hiring of a new attorney.
The new attorney, Baltazar Salazar, filed a motion Tuesday morning to the appeals court to dismiss the case. The basis for it, he said, was that the stay was now “moot” since it only applied to the May 23 meeting and the board members were able to meet on May 28.
But from Ramirez and Villarreal’s perspective, the stay from the Fourth Court of Appeals should have kept the board members from meeting at all until the case was resolved and called the May 28 meeting “invalid” in a post on social media.
“We believe that the Judicial system will make it clear that the proceedings held today were a travesty and hold no merit,” they wrote on May 28, the day the aforementioned meeting was held.
Ruben Peña, the attorney for the school district who was terminated during that meeting, said interim Superintendent Roel Gonzalez received instructions to remain in his position until a judge ordered otherwise.
Subsequently on Friday, the four board members requested a judge issue a restraining order against Gonzalez to prohibit him from being within 300 feet of the school district. A judge has yet to grant that request.
Gonzalez said Tuesday that if a judge signed the order he would comply.
“I could be served with a TRO to go home and I would abide by the judge’s orders,” Gonzalez said. “I’m just waiting for the Fourth Court of Appeals to make a decision.
“I’m leaving either way.”