Tuesday, June 27, 2017

RODRIGUEZ-ZENDEJAS: BISD TAXPAYING PUBLIC BE DAMNED

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By Juan Montoya
We should have seen this coming.
With the deftness of a troll wielding a bludgeon, Brownsville Independent School District Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas rammed through a nearly 10 percent increase in property taxes in one fell stroke with the support of four trustees who chose to support her without even considering asking the public for their opinion.

This was a story of a death foretold, since the move to increase taxes to build new facilities had been advocated by the likes of trustees Phil Cowen and Joe Rodriguez for months during meetings of the Facilities Committee headed by Cowen.

At a previous meeting CFO Lorenzo Sanchez had counseled the board that the $100 million he wanted to raise could be done by placing a bond issue election before the taxpaying public or the same amount of money could be raised by a simple majority vote of the board. With the support of a majority made up of Rodriguez, Carlos Elizondo, Cowen and Cesar Lopez, Zendejas and Sanchez got their way.

Only Dr. Sylvia Atkinson and Minerva Peña did not heed her siren's song. And calls by Atkinson for a town-hall type of meeting where the public could air their opinion on the matter went by the wayside. The majority vote assured the superintendent that the district's taxpayers will shoulder the extra taxes and will have no say in the matter.

This is about par for the course with Zendejas and her majority.
Since she was hired as superintendent through the intervention of trustee Rodriguez, the board has moved through issues that affect the community without consulting with the people who will end up paying for their choices.

Even the way she was hired should have given us a clue on the style of governance of the district, easily the biggest employee in the city with more than 7,000 employees and some 48,000 students.

Zendejasgate: When she was named interim superintendent, Rodriguez and the board promised that the community's input would be sought for a nationwide search for a permanent superintendent. There was extended discussion on establishing a community advisory committee to help the board in its choice. And Rodriguez even suggested a consultant from the Harlingen ISD to help the committee.

All that was forgotten and Zendejas – who handed in an outline of her resume – was named as a permanent superintendent without the niceties of a selection process or even a consideration of any other candidates.

From there on, the board majority and Zendejas have done as they have seen fit, sometimes to the detriment of taxpayers and students, and often the embarrassment of the community.

Take, for example, some of the highlights of the Zendejas-Rodriguez regime:
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Anillogate: When the administration decided that the 2016 Porter high School Soccer team which won a state title deserved championship rings at $895 apiece, it was the company associated with Rodriguez's BSN Sports that was chosen without the niceties of competitive bidding. Less than five days after the team won, Zendejas had already decided that Herrf Jones would provide the rings at $895 each for students and $995 for non-team members such as the coaches, principals, and herself and Rodriguez.

No one would admit ordering the rings or issuing a purchase order. In fact, the entire procurement process was ignored. It wasn't until emails from Zendejas to a competitor ring seller (see graphic above) was discovered that the public learned that it has been her and the Porter coaching staff who had chosen the vendor and ordered them without a purchase order. Rodriguez and Zendejas got "complimentary" rings at $995 each as a "volume discount" on the 41-ring purchase. Why Rodriguez?


Barbacoagate: The district – through the Region One Buy Board – contracted with vendor Valco Foods to purchase $100,000s of Mexican barbacoa, a food item high in saturated fat, but lucrative to the company that landed the rich contract. In a statement put out by the district after batches of the meat turned out to be rotten, it said: "The product was raised and purchased in the United States from a USDA approved vendor but was processed in Mexico according to USDA guidelines and under the supervision of a USDA inspector."

Not really, we later found out. The succulent lard-laden antojito Mexicano has very little nutritional value, as can be seen in the nutritional facts label at left. It however, made its vendor rich at nearly $6.50 a pound.

Then we found out that the USDA was not really pleased with the idea of using federal funds to buy the greasy meat from Mexico. The USDA prohibits the use of federal funds to purchase any product from outside the country. After the debacle, USDA investigators swarmed over the district and Region One offices trying to track how the vendor was able to sell its wares to school districts in South Texas. The issue got so hot that it resulted in the apparent "suicide" of the BISD director of its Food and Nutrition Service, Silverio Capistran. So far, no one knows who engineered the scam and who profited from the sale of the Mexican meat.

Turfgate: According to notes taken at a meeting between former purchasing administrator Rosie Peña, Zendejas, and former CFO Lucio Mendoza, the super decided that the district should spend millions (so far $4.5 million and rising) to put artificial turf on three high school soccer fields. There was no procurement process followed and no other companies were allowed to bid. Using the Buy Board formula again, Zendejas said that she decided on the expenditure and the company (Paragon Sports) "over coffee" with her fellow superintendents. When Peña complained that the company had not been vetted by Purchasing, she got the axe and was sent packing to Food and Nutrition Service, the Siberia of the BISD.

ITabletgate: After an attempt to similarly select a provider for Itablets for fifth graders in the district, Zendejas was forced to follow the bidding process as a result of using restricted federal funds to acquire them. She was forced to follow the procurement process and ended up buying them from company in Virginia. The $1.5 million purchase was approved by her board majority and trustee Cowen said the students and parent were clamoring for the tablets. Well, she got her tablets, but the students did not. It won't be until next school year that the students will see them. By that time, there is no guarantee that they won't be obsolete technology.

EMTgate: The district, again without going through a procurement process, approved a contract with  International Academy of Emergency Medical Technology, L.L.C, of which Justin Oakerton is the owner, and which was awarded a contract to teach EMT courses in the BISD from August 2016 until June 2018. BISD records indicate that before Oakerton teamed up with the fire chief, the firm had a contract from 2009 to 2014.


During that previous five-year period, the BISD paid  International Academy of Emergency Medical Technology $417,840 to teach EMT courses.

But after the company was awarded the most recent contract, records indicate that it has been paid $313,660 between July 2016 to August 2016 for the period from July 2016 to June 2017. (See graphic, click to enlarge.)
Oakerton has had a long association with trustee Carlos Elizondo, who is said to be his silent partner in the deal.

With that track record under her watch, what other surprises (gates upon gates) await the BISD taxpayer?

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

keep typing. You have no power. Nothing will happen. LOL

Anonymous said...

Failures in BISD to promote academics, which has caused many families to move to charter or relgious schools, is now being used to promote a tax increase which is intended to insult the public. BISD is perhaps the most corrupt government agency in Cameron County or even South Texas. The tax increase will insure more money into the hands of BISD Trustees. Citizens continue to take a back seat to BISD Board pockets.

Anonymous said...

Juan, I don't pay taxes, so who cares? LOL

Anonymous said...

Amazing how much Dr. Zendejas looks like Dr. Julieta Garcia and this week Dr. Zendejas proved to be as greedy as Queen Julieta. Zendejas seems to think that academics are improved with more money. Does she realize that the more money BISD gets, the more their competition gets. Charter schools benefit and don't even have to raise taxes. This action by BISD gives a great benefit to charter schools, without the negatives that come from raising taxes.

Anonymous said...

Every entity out of control. State elected officials out of control with money from lobbyists for their vote. State Rep cleaning hus hands from constituents demanding answers onky for he to say he cannot comment because he was hired by them.WRONG. other Stae Rep just staring at women and female reporters as he wipes sweat and grease off his face with tongue going in and out of his mouth uncontrollably. These guys do not represent us, they represent themselves.

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear the property taxes are going up, very say to raise the property taxes.
Sell off the campuses which are scheduled for closure.

Anonymous said...

Why isn't the FIB all over this bunch of corrupt thieves??
Cesar Lopez you need to practice what you preach! You are there to do the right thing the right way for the community not for yourself and your buddies!
Don't even think youre popular with this community everybody has seen the scum you are!

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention how they got money to get turf work started. They started the work prior the money she was going to use for it even reaching BISD hands. She went into the Sp.Ed. cookie jar and took from Dr. Miller then sped director promising money would make back to that department. FALSE.. since then Dr. Miller and more than 10 other staff have abandoned bisd sped. Due to.lack of funds there. Teachers are told that money they charge SHARS a medicaid insurance, was the money taken. So if you research this pointer, you can add this to the list. I suggest SHARSGATE. Good Luck, hopefully more luck for u than the poor luck Dr. Miller and 10 others and special needs kids had.

Anonymous said...

You know what, in the Spring of 2018 we citizens have a very special election to practice our right and involve our vote to send Rene Oliveira packing. County commissioner Alex Dominguez and local Attorney Erin Gamez seem to be candidates for State Representative. Ladies and gentlemen the time is nearing to send the sweaty overweight homewrecker womanizer alcoholic packing for he has done nothing for the district he was suppose to help. After all those years in office downtown Brownsville looks delapidated run down and economically strapped.Other areas he represents have survived because of business men and the people not him. He is a horrible example for young men children and degrades women by his behavior. Facts are present

Anonymous said...

Nobody pays taxes on time anyway!

Anonymous said...

SHARS money has been taken from Special Ed ever since Zendejas came in. My advice teachers don't bill for SHARS. It not mandatory or written on your contract. SHARS is not an automatic payment its generated as a reimbursement on what is billed. They will not see reimbursement if parents start declining billing consent. Special Ed is a self funded department and these money hungry adm. have taken what belongs to our special needs students and staff. Under Dr. Miller and ex Superintend Dr. Montoya SHARS monies was returned to Special Ed department. Special Ed is only in the negative because BISD has taken from their funding.

Anonymous said...

Regardless of what is done, and when the meetings are held or if they are brought up at a town hall, who in their right mind is going to OK and increase in taxes. It doesn't matter what they will be used for except that it hits the pockets of those who are used to getting everything free. By the way, did you read today's picture that tells the true picture of the charter schools? Ha! Transparency? Even la Sylvia is TASB=trying to expose the charter schools. Finally doing something right for a chance. Some people speak with personal agendas in their forehead, but those of us who are deeply involved with BISD are still with BISD because we are proud of what is being accomplished by our children. Look at the difference in the Monday and Wed headlines in the Brownville Herald.
those that complain probably have never attended a board meeting or even gone to open house. Put up or shut up.

Anonymous said...

Time to put the witches hat that you put on Julieta, now should go on Zendejas; the new wicked witch of Brownsville.

AT said...

Fucking Frank Mar and his crew commenting idiotic stuff. Shut up, sons of bitch!

Anonymous said...

So taxpayers are left to pay for the inconsistent Bisd who can't keep students from leaving to better schools . Way to go board members!!! We the people need to vote for ordinary people to run this joint not these pompous assholes!!!!

Anonymous said...

TEA needs to send a monitor to investigate these RATAS

Anonymous said...

B.I.S.D. = S.U.C.K.

Anonymous said...

No way.
An eleven and a half cent rate hike?
Crazy?
Is this for real?
What are the trustees thinking about?
We should be setting a budget that's within our income.
Please investigate where and how we could do some cutting back.
There's got to be a way.
It would be nice if the taxes could be reduced by eleven and a half cents.
Maybe reducung the work week.
Keep schools closed on Mondays and Fridays.
That should do it.
It's drastic but necessary.

Anonymous said...

Well said, so teachers can not be forced to charge. Csn they move the teachers from their position for not charging SHARS. Where can teachers check to see if they don't have to charge. But you are right, monies used to be used for special ed students and trainings for teachers, now Zendejas, and Board members take money as fast as it comes in to do with it as they please, except for special needs kids. There is people holding two or three different job titles, due to people not argreeing with the moves these adm. Have done and elected to leave to better or properly ran districts. Dr. Atkinson, help with this please. Ask for transparency in how they are using SHARS money. Turf fields where reg kids play with funds from special needs kids. It is wrong. They even did away with adapted PE special ed coaches and now special needs kids have to stand aside or sit aside where reg students play, they just can't keep up with reg ed kiddos. They cut corners and take their monew how can they live with themselves. Newspaper reported a Special ed female student was raped under bleachers by a reg ed student. How csn one coach keep eye on 30 to 40 students plus kids with special needs. Zendejas if you read this please do right thing and stop taking sped funds and asign someone with special ed background to fix the mess you and the board that run you have created.

Anonymous said...

Let's vote these people out folks. The faster we clean hpuse the better.

Cantinflas said...

Pobre BISD taxpayers always left holding the bag for all of these mistakes, no wonder Idea charter schools and other charter schools are eating the BISD Lunch. adios and the band keeps on marching.

Anonymous said...

Worst ever board majority and supt. She despises smart people with any kind of vision, commitment and ethics.
If you are willing to reassign employees based on politics and revenge --- you will thrive under their rule
If you have any values you will be insulted, harassed and put in a corner
The board knows it --- but they don't care as long as they get what they want

Time to step up Mr Board President

Anonymous said...

Next years school board election should be ineteresting for the board members who are up for re election. Let's see what Zendejas does when these 3 board members lose. Only a matter of time.

Anonymous said...

HOGS AT THE TROUGH....

Anonymous said...

Good article but what the poor community can do?, just take it hard. Is there anything that we can do? No, TEA, FBI, etc, there is no help, hard to believe that just a handful of people can decide for a whole city. Sad, sad, sad.

Anonymous said...

You think you will hurt Zendejas by electing new board members? Do remember that she has a contract until 2020 and if they let her go, so does the paycheck for the years remaining in her contract. And who are you going to elect that is any better than the one that are already there? You blame Zendejas for what has a been a problem in the district for the past two superintendents and no one has done anything about it and this board keeps silent for "friendship-sake"
like Dr. Miller who ran with Sylvia to Rio Hondo instead of facing the music with Zendejas. Montoya sat on his ass all the time cause he knew Atkinson would carry him through as was evident at board meetings when all questions were channeled to her by him. He ran when he saw something coming. At least, Zendejas will fight till the end regardless of who thinks what. Quit blaming her for what others failed to do and start doing something to help out the district where you send your kids for free breakfast, lunch, tablets,
etc. Don't bite the hand that feed you!!!!!

rita