EDCOUCH — Three months following an incident in which the Edcouch-Elsa school district mistakenly sold six devices with “sensitive information” to a local businessman, interim superintendent Richard Rivera will begin his investigation Monday and may possibly decide to “terminate” any employee found to have been “negligent.”
The district unintentionally sold six computers to RDA Technologies Operations manager David Avila during an auction April 6. Avila believes the district handled the situation “improperly” after correspondence with the technology director and the former superintendent, who served at the time of the incident.
The computers had information regarding social security numbers, vaccination records and addresses, Avila said.
However, with district employees off for summer break for about two weeks, along with a transition in leadership, it is unclear with whom and where the fault lies.
A former superintendent at Edcouch-Elsa, Rivera once again took the helm July 1 and will investigate the process of what led to the sale of equipment containing students’ personal and medical information.
Specifically, Rivera will investigate employees to find “exactly what happened,” beginning July 15 when staff returns from summer break.
School board attorney Benjamin Castillo said incoming leadership will conduct the investigation to “determine who was at fault” and to take appropriate measures.
“Should I find out that someone was negligent then they are going to be terminated (from the district). I’m going to take action,” Rivera told The Monitor following a special board meeting Tuesday.
The meeting agenda was posted July 3 and the incident regarding computers was not among the items listed. As such, the board did not discuss the topic Tuesday evening.
Avila said he also kept a communication log — copies of email exchanges between himself and the district, and photos both he and his son, also named David, took during the auction. He has been alarmed by the district’s lack of accountability both at and after the April 6 auction, when Avila said his attempts to report the potential presence of sensitive information went unheeded.
Avila attended Tuesday’s board meeting, the first since the incident became public.
Although Avila sent the computers to the Texas Attorney General’s Office in June, he still wants to “do the right thing” after becoming invested and seeing what he alleged as “improper information handling.”
Rivera stressed there is a procedure in place and that he will find “who fumbled the ball” in not removing confidential information from district computers before being sold.
With a combined 20 years of service as a superintendent in Edcouch-Elsa, Weslaco and Monte Alto, Rivera said he’s never experienced such an incident before.
“There’s a procedure. When you have obsolete equipment, the first step is to declare it obsolete. You go to the board… on an agenda item and the board approves all of that is obsolete and gives us the direction to go ahead and sell it at an auction,” Rivera said.
District equipment can’t be given away or auctioned without a process, which begins with an item being declared “surplus” by the board. With regard to electronic equipment with personal information, normally someone is hired to check and remove the hard drives from computers, which is standard for several school districts, he said.
They can work with auctioneers afterward for selling these items to bidders, after proper procedures are put in place and followed.
Avila said he and his son saw evidence of working Windows operating systems on laptops being sold at the auction, a sign they still contained their hard drives, he said during a previous interview with The Monitor.
But with employees on vacation, it has been difficult for district officials to probe any further until staff return. Also, Rivera didn’t start as interim superintendent until the day KRGV News Channel 5 first reported the story.
“There’s nothing, (no) file or any kind of report this April, so I came in blind on this issue,” Rivera said.
The previous superintendent left with a policy to address this problem.
Measures will be put in place to ensure device information is destroyed through a state agency, Ronaldo Cavazos said Friday. Cavazos, who was then the superintendent, said a process was in place to ensure “sensitive information” does not get into an auction, but that it failed “somewhere along the line.”
Cavazos has not commented further.