Tuesday, May 2, 2017


By Juan Montoya
Since January 20, the Texas Southmost College board of trustees has been under the accreditation gun after trustee Reynaldo Garcia joined up with former trustee Rene Torres and filed complaints asking the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to determine whether the college was in violation of the terms of its accreditation.

The accreditation body had five options – including a review and possible removal of TSC's accreditation – but opted to close the complaints after it assessed the validity of both complaints.

Although none of the sitting board members answered emails asking for their comments on the SACS-COC action, a TSC administrator commented.

"It's as we have said all along, there was never anything there. This was all part of the effort by these two individuals to buttress the lawsuit filed by former president Lily Tercero against the board for terminating her. These guys showed that they have more love for the former president than they do for our community college."

After reviewing their voluminous complaints, the SAC-COC replied with a curt, one-paragraph response.
In a letter addressed to Interim TSC President Mike Shannon dated April 27, the accreditation commission stated:
"Your thorough response provided sufficient clarification and documentation to allow us to close both complaints. Mr. Torres and Dr. Garcia have been notified that SAC-COC has concluded its review of their complaints." (Click on graphic above to enlarge.)

In their original complaints, Torres and Garcia charged that "a minority" on the board of TSC was out of compliance with the accreditation standards. Their complaints were featured on a front-page Sunday story on the Brownsville Herald.
The newspaper did not name Torres and Garcia as the individuals making the complaint, only the allegations both raised against the sitting board members.
Image result for rene torres, TSCImage result for dr. reynaldo garciaIn journalism, it is who what and where, and not necessarily why, although it might be critical in this case.

The newspaper only said it had received notice of the complaints from an unnamed source and that it was basing its story "according to documents provided to the Brownsville Herald."

It surprised us to no end that the two persons making the complaint against the college with the accrediting institution that could begin the process of removing accreditation from the community college after an arduous three-year effort to obtain it were Torres and Garcia.
Curiously, or perhaps, revealingly, the letter from the SACS-COC in response to the complaints sought basically the same information that Tercero's lawyers have asked for in the discovery process of her lawsuit.

In other words, the college's answers to the complaint filed by these two men – if the SAC-COC had given credence to their allegations – could have been used by Tercero's lawyers to aid her in her lawsuit against the college which seeks the payment of the three-year extension at $228,000 per year for a total of $684,000 plus attorneys fees.

In her lawsuit, Tercero says she was terminated “without good cause and in violation of her right to due process.”
“The termination was orchestrated by Defendant Adela G. Garza, the Board Chair, and the other individual Defendants because Dr. Tercero would not take ‘orders’ from individual board members when the directives were not approved by at least four members of the board at a lawful meeting,” the lawsuit states.

In the SACS-COC letter to the college, it states that "both complainants allege that since the last election, the institution's board of trustees is being controlled by a minority of board members, led by the current board chair...," basically echoing Tercero's lawsuit.

Tercero was dismissed and placed on paid leave after a hearing held Sept. 19, 2016. Some of the trustees were unhappy after the Texas Board of Nursing put the college's Associate Degree Nursing Program (thanks for the correction) on “conditional approval status” for lagging passing rates for the state licensing exam. This January, the state ordered the college to shut the program down.
ercero also faced questions over why she agreed to a campus windstorm policy without board approval.
The windstorm insurance renewal (done without board consent) was one of the nine reasons TSC attorney Frank Perez listed as cause for dismissal at Tercero’s dismissal hearing.

Other reasons included her inability to comply with “reasonable” requests.
“The requests are unreasonable given their breadth, scope, and the limited time allowed for compliance. The requests are illegal because they were not approved by at least four members of the board after being deliberated in open session as required by Texas law,” her attorneys charged.

With these questions now before a court, why would a current and a former trustee file a complaint that is mirroring the same issues that Tercero's lawyers are alleging in the lawsuit against the college?

We recall that Torres played a critical role in defending the college from the former UTB-TSC "partnership" president Julieta Garcia who wanted the board to turn over all the assets of the community college to the UT System and that the district be dissolved only until the taxpayers finished paying off the $68 million in bonds she had used to construct buildings on the campus.

Torres was replaced on the board by Art Rendon after both filed for the same position and then they waited until the filing deadline when the saw that no one else filed. Torres withdrew leaving Rendon without an opponent and saving him the expense of running a campaign.

Later, Rendon wanted the board to name the REC building after Torres, only to discover that TSC policy did not allow for the naming of buildings after individuals who are still alive. In fact, the person must be dead for three years before being considered.

Garcia has been at odds with the rest of the board and only he and Rendon voted  not to terminate Tercero. He has defended her role in the loss of the nursing program, her unilateral renewal of the windstorm contract without going before the board, and her use of rubber stamp signatures of trustees no longer on the board to sign hundreds of checks totaling $1,502,082.

A letter – also made public by the Herald – accused chair Garza of treating Tercero as her "personal slave." Later, El Rrun-Rrun acquired an early draft where Garcia asks Tercero whether she approved of the remarks in the letter before it was sent to Garza and the newspaper.

But some are asking now: Are personal differences with the current majority on the board reasons enough to endanger the accreditation of the college after years of trying to get it? If they had been successful, the loss of accreditation could severely impact the students, parents, and faculty and staff at TSC. Was personal satisfaction worth that much?

"TSC has been under the gun for the last five months with the potential of losing its accreditation," said the administrator. "The board has been under incredible pressure. This finding shows the majority did nothing wrong and vindicates their efforts to steer TSC back to its original mission to provide accessible and affordable education to its students."


Anonymous said...

The vocational nursing program,LVN, was not shut down. It was the ADN, Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) Program, that was shut down.

Anonymous said...

I worked at the OLD TSC. The TSC that had English, math, Science, Spanish, French, History. The TSC that had the city and college library, a special collections room, a very knowledgeable person named Yolanda Gonzalez, a TSC book store where you could buy a TSC t-shirt and your textbooks without inflated prices, two cafeterias where students ate freshly made food (I know people that worked in the kitchen and made fresh meals daily). That TSC had a strict and knowledgeable librarian (Frances Vaughn), that TSC had the #1 nursing program in the whole state of Texas and the director was Mrs. Margarita Barradas, that TSC that got lost in wilderness of modernization with a joint partnership that brought it's downfall from a junior college to a vocational-technical group of courses that have to compete with STVT and any other vocational school that sprung out in the early 90's when the partnership took place.
The last 2 or 3 boards have become nothing more than Me, Me, ME persons that don't give a "hoot" about the community they serve. Ironic, that many of them started their education at the "old TSC". One thing I learned is that YOU CANT GO BACK. Yes, it was better, but it was another time and unfortunately, the current boards have not been able to bring back the past glories. NOBODY can. But, just like the city administration; if you can't move forward, move aside and let another person that truly cares.

Anonymous said...

It is a shame that the opportunity to have a lone standing community college serving the lower valley is being squandered and stymied by a group of ignorant dumbasses on the board. The current one and the previous one. Who in their right mind hires a CFO to get an institution like a community college off the ground? This college could've been structured the right way 5 years ago at least. Instead, it's an embarrassment and an ongoing comedy of errors. Nothing but idiots on the board. The only losers are the students and current and potential employers. You bunch of peasants on the board. If you disagree, prove me wrong.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. The continued disregard for significant human and capital assets is unacceptable. Rene Torres was a chief hater. Rene, Kiko, Trey and Adela: shame on you all.

Anonymous said...

Wait, it is not allowed to name a building after a living person? Take the chisels to the "Mary Rose Cardenas" bldg! Do it NOW. Obviously it was named illegally.