Santa Rosa superintendent accuses board of retaliation

She claims the board tried to stop reports of illegal sexual activity

SANTA ROSA — Superintendent Angela Gonzalez is blowing the whistle on some school board members who she claims tried to stop her from reporting illegal activity to law enforcement.

Since taking the job in March, Gonzalez reported the cases of two coaches allegedly having sexual relationships with students, according to the complaint filed with the school district May 28.

Gonzalez claims the cases involving the coaches, along with other incidents of “misconduct,” had not been properly reported for as long as a year.

Last month, the Cameron County District Attorney’s investigation led to the indictments of coaches Josue Arnoldo Cepeda, 35, and Isaac Ruben Flores, 24, for allegedly having sexual relationships with students.

In her complaint, Gonzalez accuses board President Raul Garza, Vice President Arnulfo Castañeda and Secretary Cynthia Saldaña of retaliating against her, a violation of the Texas Whistleblower Act.

“I am being harmed professionally and personally by this board misconduct in that I am being attacked and interfered with as to my duties and authority as superintendent in violation of the Texas Whistleblower Act and applicable board policies, including the board’s code of ethics,” she wrote in her complaint to the district, which she wants the board to address at an upcoming meeting.

When she started her job March 18, she found out the school district was under investigation.

“On the first day, I learned that there was an ongoing investigation by local law enforcement over alleged inappropriate relationships between certain coaches and students as well as other related misconduct,” she stated in her complaint.

“Also, these known allegations and some underlying proof had not been properly reported,” she added, referring to agencies such as the Texas Education Agency, the State Board for Education Certification and Child Protective Services.

ALLEGED RETALIATION

About two weeks later, some board members began trying to “undermine my efforts,” she wrote.

On May 13, board members voted to reprimand her, but she has yet to be told on what grounds.

During a special board meeting May 17, some board members “unfairly criticized me for making reports of serious misconduct as required by law.”

Then on May 28, Garza, Castañeda and Saldaña voted to launch an investigation on her alleged misconduct.

However, the three were outvoted.

“I am being targeted for retaliation for making earlier reports of legal violations,” she wrote. “I am reasonably concerned that I may be placed on administrative leave or otherwise isolated or prevented from doing my job as superintendent (as a result of) unwarranted or retaliatory interference from certain school board members.”

INDICTMENTS

On May 22, a Cameron County grand jury indicted the coaches on charges stemming from allegations of sexual relationships with students.

Now, local, state and federal investigators are trying to identify the individuals involved in those alleged incidents and working to figure out if they were covered up, according to Victoria Cisneros, spokeswoman for the DA’s office.

The allegations had gone on for about a year without being reported.

According to the DA’s office, school district officials failed to respond to reports that Cepeda and Flores were allegedly having relationships with students in May 2018.

In February, the District Attorney’s Office launched its investigation after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigation’s Child Exploitation Task Force received telephone tips regarding Cepeda and Flores, Cisneros said.

CHARGES

Then on May 22, a Cameron County grand jury indicted Cepeda and Flores.

Magistrate Judge Louis Sorola ordered each man held on $525,000 bail, setting bail at $75,000 per count.

Sorola charged Cepeda with one count of improper relationship and six counts of sexual assault, all second-degree felonies.

Meanwhile, Flores was charged with one count of improper relationship, two counts of sexual assault and four counts of delivery of a controlled substance or marijuana.

All charges are second-degree felonies carrying as much as two to 22 years in state prison.

They remained in custody of the Cameron County jail on Monday.