Texas Education Agency takes over La Joya ISD school board

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The Texas Education Agency announced the appointment of a new La Joya ISD board of managers and new superintendent, Marcey Sorensen, to oversee operations for the district. 

The overhaul of the school board is a result of a TEA investigation into allegations of fraud and conflicts of interest by members of previously elected board of trustees. 

“I think what my responsibility is to learn about (the allegations of fraud) and to really fully understand all of the things that happened so that we can put procedures and policies … to make sure that those things don’t happen again,” Sorensen said today in her first press conference at the helm.

On May 9, 2023 the TEA investigation issued a final report recommending the appointment of a board of managers for the school district. 

The newly appointed board consists of seven members, all of which are Hidalgo County residents with four residing school district boundaries.

According to a press release by the TEA, the new school board will be tasked with guiding the focus of the district toward good stewardship of public resources and ensuring public trust while continuing to align distinct goals and efforts toward positive student outcomes and academic success. 

“These seven individuals, in collaboration with the new superintendent, have volunteered to work collectively to move the district forward in service of the incredible students, staff, families, and proud communities that make up La Joya ISD,” Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said in a press release. “Their willingness to serve under unique circumstances is a testament to their character and care for kids. I am confident they will succeed in charting a path forward that will enable the LJISD elected board to eventually resume its role and sustain a culture of success in the district.”

Newly appointed superintendent Sorensen has served as a deputy superintendent for the Virginia Department of Education, Fort Worth ISD assistant superintendent of Teach and Learning and executive director of Curriculum & Instruction at Madison Metropolitan School District. 

Meeting La Joya ISD administration staff just this morning, Sorensen said she feels comfortable with the current staff. 

Jake Kobersky, TEA director of Media Relations, said the school board will approve Sorensen as  acting superintendent and a relocation agreement at a special board meeting next Wednesday but will have to wait the required  21-day waiting period to finalize a contract and officially make her the superintendent. 

When asked how much power over decisions regarding the district does she have, Sorensen replied, “The full authority of the superintendent. Just like any superintendent in any other district and so, we’re going to make decisions that are best for our budget, best for our kids.” 

Sorensen, who just left Virginia a couple of days ago for her new position, said she in her first 90 days will be learning the ins and outs of the district from the finances, grants, condition of buildings, wellbeing of staff, such as transportation workers, and will visit each campus and talk to community members.

Julian Alvarez lll , a new La Joya ISD board member and executive vice president-director of Community Relations at Lone Star National Bank speaks to the media at a press conference Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024, at the La Joya ISD Administration Building. (Omar Zapata | The Monitor)

The new board members consist of Julian Alvarez III, executive vice president-director of Community Relations at Lone Star National Bank. 

Anita Chavez a environmental compliance specialist and second generation La Joya ISD alumna. 

Celso Gomez Jr., another district alumna who sent his three children to La Joya ISD schools and worked as a band director in the Valley before transitioning into the automobile industry for the last 13 years. 

Rosalva Hernandez, a La Joya ISD graduate, attended South Texas College for a nursing degree then moved to Arlington to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and then Fort Worth for a Master of Science in Nursing, before going to Jacksonville, Florida to become a Doctor of Nursing Practice. 

Carlos Margo, a graduate from Rio Grande City High School, is currently the dean for Industry Training and Economic Development at South Texas College and also serves as the vice president of the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley. 

Jessica Ochoa, currently has two children attending La Joya ISD schools and holds a Master of Public Administration from UTRGV. 

Alyssa Pena, another La Joya ISD alumna, works for the Ford Motor Company as a senior solutions sales manager and is a co-founder of Next Generation Cup, a nonprofit organization in Dallas that provides high quality extracurricular activities through soccer.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include remarks from Sorensen and new information.