Sunday, March 5, 2017


By Juan Montoya
If you look at the agenda for the Tuesday, March 7 meeting of the trustees of the Brownsville Independent School District, two items will stick out which indicate the disconnect between the decisions made by the board majority, the administration's recommendations, and the interests of its taxpayers.

The first has to do with the reappearance of the item dealing with the acceptance of a $25,060 from Herff Jones, the ringmaker, for the "donation" of 28 golden student rings to the 2016 Porter Early College High School Champion Soccer Team.
Those rings were part of a $31,025 order made by unknown parties to Herrf Jones salesman Luis Garza for which he sent Porter Principal Hector Hernandez the invoice in June. The $31,025 invoice issued by Herrf Jones' included a "volume discount" for two rings valued at $995 each for BISD superintendent Esperanza Zendejas and BISD trustee Joe Rodriguez for which the district was not billed. 

Eleven non players – including coaches – also received rings valued by Herrf Jones at $995 each which were part of the invoice. 

According to Zendejas, the 11 non players paid for their rings after the investigation was begun by BISD internal auditors. The fact that the coaches were said to have agreed to pay for their rings could keep them from being suspended as per UIL rules prohibiting the acceptance of the more than $500 in gifts. If the entire team is guilty, the team can be suspended from competing in UIL-sponsored competition.

The other items on the agenda are for $773,754.09 total in three payments to be made to artificial turf installer Paragon Sports. The first two payments ($51,785 and $49,094) are payments to cover work done on the Porter soccer field. The third payment of $212,875.09 is a partial payment to Paragon for work on the Rivera early College High School indoor soccer field.

An information request to the BISD reveals that the installation of artificial turf has cost the district a pretty penny. In response to our requets, the BISD Public Information Office responded that as of February 13, the BISD has tallied the following totals in artificial turf at the high schools:

Number of campuses and BISD Facilities where turf has been installed :
· LOPES ECHS -- outdoor field .
· PORTER ECHS -- outdoor field.
· RIVERA ECHS -- indoor ½ field.

Names of architects, engineers and firms.
· LOPEZ ECHS : Paragon Sports ( installer) , Ambiotec (Engineer ).
· PORTER EC Paragon Sports ( installer), MGE Engineering .
· RIVERA ECHS Paragon Sports ( installer ) , n/a 

Payments to Paragon Sports.
· LOPEZ $ 819,146.00
· PORTER $ 997,964.00 ( adjustments to final amount are in progress).
· RIVERA $ 224,079.00 .
In talks with several local state representatives they have – to  a man – said that local school districts in South Texas should be aware that the biennial session of the Texas Legislature could generate some very disappointing outlays from Austin for education. Slumping revenues from the oil and gas industry may mean that the boon expected from that source will be severely impacted, resulting in lower outlays to school districts across the state.

"School districts should be very careful with their budgets because the money from Austin that they have come to expect will not be there," said one. "Districts are going to have to do some belt-tightening after this session."

The issue of accepting a donation from the ring maker carries some unintended consequences. If a player accepts more than $50 in gifts, he or she may lose their amateur status and be prohibited from participating in sports. If Porter was somehow to defend its championship, the UIL could strip it of its title and award it to the second-place team in the 5A District. The student rings were invoiced at $885 each.

Local district policy states that the administration could have budgeted money to pay for the rings without any of the UIL consequences. But the "donation" of the rings to the students by a vendor violates the rules.

Some BISD watchers are wondering how the ring item reappeared on the agenda since it had already been turned down twice before. They say that the only way to protect the student-athletes would be to have the district pay the $25,060 to Herrf Jones since accepting the "donation" would constitute the acceptance of a gift over $50.

Nonetheless, the fact that before the controversy over the rings broke, the district was willing to pay the $31,000 for extravagant jewelry and that it has now paid Paragon More than $2.25 million to cover the artificial turf installation probably won't sit well with legislators in Austin.

"My fellow Republicans in Austin are going to point that one of the poorest communities and district in the state and country is spending on extravagances like the $31,000 on golden rings and the millions in artificial turf and indoor soccer fields and decide that maybe the BISD doesn't really need the money anyway," said a state rep who requested anonymity. "These seem like extravagances instead of necessities while at the same time the administration is cutting the services to special needs students. It's not going to go over well."


Anonymous said...

Again, we see that the trustees and the administration of BISD think about what is best for them and not what is best for the students or academics. Here these kids now have received rings that could cost them their amateur status and perhaps college scholarships. For the coaches, they paid to stay out of trouble. Trouble all were in because of failures in the BISD system...who ordered the rings? who authorized the order of the rings? who benefited from the order of the rings in BISD? With a $500 million budget, $31,000 is a small number, but to most of us who pay taxes, it is a big number which carries a big problem that BISD trutees and administrators seek to sweep under the large BISD rug. If all politics is local and BISD is local, corruption dominates every level.

Anonymous said...

Skewers make shish-kabobs.

Anonymous said...

We are a city of idiots and deserve all the crap we get.

Anonymous said...

As you have said before:

Hogs at the trough.

BISD is not, and has not been about education for a long time.

Although with that said, BISD is not alone in its insipid, disgusting and just outright abuse of authority. It would be superfluous to try and explain the misuse, overuse, and polymorphously perverse use of the hard earned tax dollars of the citizens of Brownsville, not to mention those federal funds coming mostly from out of the Valley that the BISD students just get a whiff of.

The BISD is not getting better, and it will get much worse before it gets any better.

All along, the students, teachers and classified personnel will be taking it in the neck.

It's just the Way of things.

Anonymous said...

How about bisd spending thousands of dollars producing and airing a tv commercial encouraging students to attend bisd ? Incredible waist of money. IDEA is building schools as bisd plans to close them. Remember when it took over a year to get Breeden school open? How long was it? Not only are parents abandoning bisd in record numbers, they are taking away the best students.

Anonymous said...

So what?

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Anonymous said...

The schools are building these facilities to keep the students from leaving to charter schools such as idea, harmony , and South texas isd. BiSD has given up on competition g academically and is enticing student athletes. Much like major universities do nowadays. Also due to open enrollment all high schoolers are trying to get to Hanna and veterans therefore they are banking on the new facilities wooing students to go to rivera and porter, where no one really wants to go. Its easy to see.

Anonymous said...

UIL changes rules so schools can purchase state title rings-give tickets to parents
10-20-2015, 11:20 AM

UIL Legislative Council alters rules to allow schools to buy championship rings, give free tickets to parents:

ROUND ROCK - The bling of a state championship ring is about to be more accessible for title-winning athletes and their families.
In the midst of a massive overhaul of the University Interscholastic League's constitution, the league's Legislative Council passed a proposal allowing school districts to purchase a ring or other "major" award for a state-title winning run.
There was a hardy debate on the issue prior to its presentation to the Standing Committee on Policy and the full Legislative Council, according to UIL executive director Charles Breithaupt.
The revision sets no monetary cap on what a school may spend on an award for winning a state title, instead leaving that decision to the discretion of each district. Currently, students must spend their own money to purchase a ring.
"State championships are rare, and in many cases in small communities, there are a lot of kids that come through that don't have the money [to buy a ring]," Breithaupt said. "And those schools have benefited from a state championship, sometimes financially. So why shouldn't the school - if they wanted to with their own money - provide a ring for them? I think it's a noble cause and a way for schools to celebrate a championship.
"You shouldn't be having to do a bake sale after winning a state championship [to get a ring]."
In general, the new re-writing of the UIL constitution has liberalized many of the state's amateur athlete rules. Among the items passed by the Legislative Council on Monday were provisions removing restrictions on providing parents with free tickets or passes, increasing the amount a school can spend on a letterman's patch, and allowing student-athletes to receive "reasonable fees" for coaching and officiating.
"The way that we move forward in 2015 is with less restrictions on things that don't really matter," Breithaupt said. "I think people get that.

Anonymous said...

And meanwhile Children with disabilities had their swimming program cut from one month for 45 minutes to 2 weeks and only 30 minutes. What does the BISD BOARD or Zendejas say? Nothing. They don't return calls or messages. Minnie "Cara de Weinie" Peña swore to be transparent. Only thing transparent is her overeating. She won't hold office next election.

Anonymous said...

It's not an issue of recognition....the team deserves to be recognize! The issue is the way the board violated policy:
Policy is meant to protect the students and district.
Without policy and process::: people can do what they want!
BISD is a half a billion dollar business. It needs to be managed with a business mind set if it's going to be successful.It's very alarming to hear students say they don't have the supplies needed to do their work, they don't have the money to take a trip to compete, and yet this community is defending the $31k ring invoice. Funding is going to be cut ....where do you suppose the board will go to for the supplement? Tax increase aka Bond!!
Nice diamond ring,custom made to each players ring size, is Not the issue! It's holding school board members and superintendent accountable for the decisions they make. You can't pick and choose on when Policy is applied. Brownsville wake up and be proactive not reactive.

Anonymous said...

Were UIL Rules broken; YES
Were BISD Rules broken; YES

Dr. Zendejas highly intelligent and know's the in's and out's of UIL Policy; YES

Is Joe Rod intelligent in UIL rules,(remember he was the AD, thus know UIL rules); YES

HerFF Jones Luis Garza should know UIL Policies; YES (he is in the business of selling)

So what next, who knows, who really cares, crooks will be crooks and whats worse is that they don't even try to hide it, shame on us.

Hopefully Charles Breithaupt from UIL will put a stop to people that think they are above the law and hopefully some of the Board Members that are sworn in to protect the BEST INTEREST of the school district get rid of the trash.

Anonymous said...

If You really want to help kids and the community,get rid of Zendejas.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous of the 8th at 1:05, have you not been paying attention to what community leaders are doing to help BISD? Is this because they feel that Zendejas is not doing what is best for the district? What more do you want her to do? Study it objectively and make subjective comments only when you know what is really going on. All this started when certain individuals were recently elected on the board. If they have it their way, it won't be long before all BISD policies are changed to their liking and to hell with what anyone else wants. We need O'Quinn on the board - objective!!!