San Benito school board keeps Vargas as president; Push failed to remove him following DWI arrest

SAN BENITO — The school board’s majority wants Michael Vargas to stay on as president — and wants its hierarchy intact.

As residents packed the board room last night, the board’s majority voted to keep Vargas as president, Orlando Lopez as vice president and Janie Silva as secretary.

Board members Angel Mendez and Mary Lou Garcia called for the board’s reorganization as part of plan to remove Vargas as president following his July 5 arrest for driving while intoxicated.

Meanwhile, the meeting’s public comment period was pushed from the beginning to the end the meeting.

“In light of all the allegations out there and the community outcry, they’re asking for him to be removed,” Mendez said before the meeting, referring to Vargas.

Mendez said Vargas’ arrest reflects poorly on the school board and the district.

As president, Vargas serves as the district’s high-profile spokesman.

“It’s embarrassing,” Mendez said. “It’s showing our community and students there are no consequences. That is not who I am. It’s painful for me. I’m part of the team. I’ve got kids. That’s not the message I want to send to my kids. There are consequences.”

Mendez said Vargas’ arrest raises concerns about the board’s integrity.

“I think he needs to take care of himself first,” Mendez said. “Get out of the way, fix your problem so we can move forward.”

Garcia declined to comment.

On Facebook, former counselor Janie Lopez has called for Vargas’ removal as president.

“Vargas should be held to an even higher standard than teachers,” Lopez, the district’s former Guidance and Counseling Coordinator, said before the meeting, adding teachers are required to follow a code of ethics.

Lopez said Vargas’ arrest sends the wrong message to students.

“The kids are looking up to him and he’s not a good role model,” she said. “I’m concerned about it. My job was to teach kids character development — to be responsible and not end up in jail.”

Two years ago, board members elected Vargas as the district’s youngest president.

Across the community, Vargas’ drunken driving arrest has led many residents to call for his removal as president.

At about 2 a.m. July 5, a Harlingen police officer found Vargas, 32, sleeping behind the wheel of his car outside a Taco Bell restaurant at 1518 N. Ed Carey Drive, a police report states.

According to the report, the officer arrested Vargas after he refused to perform a field sobriety test.

Later that day, Vargas was released from the city jail after posting $2,000 bail.

Vargas, who was elected to the school board’s Place 1 seat in May 2015, has served as the board’s president since May 2017.

Last year, he won re-election to the term expiring in 2021.