Wednesday, May 3, 2017


By Juan Montoya
No one seemed to notice that at yesterday's meeting of the board of trustees of the Brownsville Independent School District the administration changed the way the districts procure goods from vendors by allowing high schools to choose the providers of $1,000 rings for state championship teams.

Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas said that the administration and the students of the Lopez Early College High School Powerlifting team that won a state championship would be allowed to choose the vendor for the rings that would be bought by the district.

Image result for joe rodriguez, bisdAnd taking part in the conversation to explain that the UIL on August 2016 had changed the rules on the cost of gifts that student athletes from $70 to an unlimited amount as long as the gifts came from the district and not individuals was a vendor, trustee Joe Rodriguez.

Rodriguez – who has a direct interest in selling the district rings – is a registered vendor with BSN Sports, a subsidiary of Varsity Brands. Varsity Brands, in turn, is the parent company of BSN Sports, Herrf Jones, and Varsity Spirit.

Varsit Brands, in their website, states that they operate "three unique but interrelated businesses: Herff Jones, a Varsity Achievement Brand; BSN SPORTS, a Varsity Sport Brand; and Varsity Spirit. Together, these assets promote personal, school and community pride through their customizable products and programs to elementary and middle schools, high schools, and colleges and universities, as well as church organizations, professional and collegiate sports teams and corporations."

On June 2013, BSN Sports and Herrf Jones merged under the Varsity Brands umbrella, making them one and the same.

Is it just us, or is the fact that Coach Joe is directly tied to the ring maker (Herrf Jones) through the merger with BSN, constitutes a direct conflict of interest and that he should recuse himself from discussing or voting on any agenda items dealing with either company?

Rodriguez paw prints are all over the district's business with these companies.

Remember the brouhaha that erupted over the acquisition of $31,020 in championship rings for the Porter Early College High School soccer state champs? Just five days after the team won, Zendejas emailed a competitor (Josten's) that it need not hand in a bid for the rings because she, the principal, and the athletic coordinator had already decided to go with Herrf Jones without doing any comparative shopping.

That was even after the Josten's representative offered to beat any other vendor's offer, including Herrf Jones'.

The district ended up acquiring (because the procurement process was bypassed) rings for athletes at $895 each from Herrf Jones. It also received 11 rings for non-students at $995 each, including a free one for Rodriguez and Zendejas. When an audit was launched on the "purchase," Zendejas didn't tell Co-Lead Auditor Arvin Tucker that she had participated in ordering the rings. Instead, during the meetings where the purchase was discussed, she feigned ignorance on who had ordered the rings from the vendor. Tucker's report concluded that the purchase had originated in Porter's athletic department and left it at that.

And email correspondence from purchasing agents from various school districts indicate that Rodriguez is an active vendor who visits schools on behalf of BSN and Herrf Jones for Varsity Brands. Their aim – as is depicted in the correspondence – was to implement an exclusive contract with the districts that would not allow any other vendors' goods but theirs.

Those of us who have lived in Brownsville know full well that Rodriguez has turned his employment as a district coach, trustee and athletic director into a money-making enterprise. His long association with the district's coaches – some of whom owe him their original employment with the BISD – grant him undue influence in the decisions they make.

If the coaches (and principals) know that Coach Joe wants them to patronize a certain vendor, does anyone seriously think that they would go against his wishes? That made obvious during the Level 3 grievance of former Veterans High School principal Mary Solis, who complained that Rodriguez had was pressuring her to hire certain coaches and buy from certain vendors. She won her grievance before the board.

And on the October 2015 Facilities Committee meeting, Zendejas introduced the representative of Paragon Sports as the company she had chosen to install artificial turf at Lopez Early College High School without going through the procurement process. When she was asked who the contact person for the company was, she named Jason Starkey, the athletic coordinator at Lopez. Starkey is rumored to be the next BISD Athletic Director for doing such good work for the district's administration.

When Purchasing Administrator Rosario Peña asked why Paragon Sports did not go through the procurement process or its bona fides scrutinized by the department, she was called to the carpet in Zendejas' office and chastised for her impertinence. Zendejas said that she had chosen Paragon based on the recommendation by her fellow superintendents "over coffee."

After a decent interval, Peña was exiled to the Food and Nutrition Service gulag which was under investigation by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture for a number of alleged violations. BISD administrators know that a transfer to that department is an unmistakable signal that their days with the district are counted.

Image result for esperanza zendejas, bisdBut since when does a coach – or  a superintendent for that matter – decide which vendor will get a contract worth millions, as resulted with Paragon. That company has now installed artificial turf in three high schools at a cost of close to $3 millions. And the new Facilites Committee chair Phil Cowen wanted Paragon to give him a deal on three more schools before cooler heads prevailed and he cancelled the meeting.

It is noteworthy that Zendejas was brought on board by Rodriguez after Carl Montoya left for greener pastures in San Antonio. The board, in announcing her being named as an interim superintendent, promised that there would be a nationwide search for the BISD superintendent, that an advisory community committee of district residents would be appointed to assist the board, and that a consultant (suggested by Rodriguez) would help the board and the committee.

After that lip service, the nationwide search was scrapped, as was the community advisory committee and the consult and and Zendejas was named superintendent. Don't you think that Rodriguez has Zendejas' ear. Curiously, both the rings and the artificial turf have to do with athletics, Rodriguez's cottage industry and his cup of tea. Coincidence?

This is what Zendejas said when she was appointed as interim superintendent back in February 2015:
“My role is to come in and support the school district and assist the board with maintaining a fiscally responsible district focused on student achievement, community engagement and making sure the students are engaged,” she said.

Fiscally responsible? Mmmmm.


Anonymous said...

Instead of rings that cost more than their class rings....why not attempt to contribute to their education...start an account for all students participation in extra-curricular activities and put the money into a college account for after, community college or trade school. After many years I don't wear my college ring or high school ring (and athletes go a pat of the back or maybe go laid after winning a championship) but have my diplomas on display.

Anonymous said...

Mexicans do not deserve rings! They should have just given them a plate of tacos!

Anonymous said...

Run for the board since you seem to know everything, Juan. There is no way you could figure all this out on your own if you didn't have a bunch of
"dedos" that run to you with their story. The sad thing about this is that these people talk about others and spread gossip to no ends in public where
everyone hears them, but tomorrow one of them will be leading the prayer
group at Sams Stadium. What a hypocrate -"Love thy neighbor, as thou love thee!" Have you ever heard that? Hypocrates profess Jesus and act so rude and cruel towards other people. Even one new board member made a comment that she didn't realize how rude some of the board members were. Now she knows and I do hope she is not in cohoots with some of them now. So Juan
jump into the fire and smother Coach Joe, and Dr. Zendejas. Don't throw stones if you live in glass houses, right? You sure have broken all the windows at the Glass Palace and we are sick and tired of the same ring story over and over. Maybe someone will give you a ring and it will settle you down. You can always go pawn it.

BISD taxpayer said...




Anonymous said...

Hey!, I take offense
I have both a cock and anal ring

---Joe rod

Anonymous said...

Dear 6 PM "dedo"
I believe the board member you are referencing did 3 times and won all three times. Not only did she win (while spending 100.00-- none of which from vendors) she picked up more votes than any other candidate (other then possibly SA). The community that elected her==continues to stand by her. Did Minnie and SA win the last election with the largest margins and the largest number of votes? That tells you something about what the voters are feeling. Perhaps we should listen.

The only ones tired of the ring story are those that broke the rules to order them. For the rest of town, it is another example of rules/laws/policies being circumvented for a select few. And no one believes the "campus" made a mistake.

As for acting so cruel towards others---i don't think you really want to go there.

I guess Laura told you she's shocked. She put the chief (how is he still on the board?) in his place when he mocked her in a board meeting. Is that who you are referencing in being rude?

Anonymous said...

Don't you get tired of being so ignorant?

Anonymous said...

The problem with the majority of the constituents in this town is that they fall for "an ice cream cone" as an exchange for a vote, as well as a kissy-kissy hypocratic hug and blowing of kisses from one of them. Settle the ring problem and get on to business that is about the kids' education. I sure do hope people are not thinking of buying rings for the elementary school kids that win Nationals, but the comments by the first blogger is so much better - good idea. When Brownsville has such a low turn out in all elections, which is a shame, how can we say that the people wanted them? And Juan, does "el dedo" tell you how they both act behind closed doors. I sometimes wish I could run so that I could be allowed to behind close doors and see the 3-ring boxing match inside there. And how do I know? Because the dedo goes around town telling everyone about it.