PHARR — The Valley View Independent School District has officially reached a settlement with Monica Luna earlier this month, ending her notably short tenure leading the district as superintendent and agreeing to pay her six figures annually through 2024.
Luna, who was named superintendent in October of last year, will stay on as an assistant superintendent. She served as superintendent for less than a month before being suspended with pay last November — after a slate of newcomers were elected to the board — pending an investigation into the process by which she was granted her contract.
The district’s attorney, Gus Acevedo, elaborated on those contract concerns Thursday, emphasizing that the reason for the investigation was related to technical issues with the contract rather than personnel issues with Luna.
“We were concerned that the process was rushed and that not all of the Is had been dotted and Ts had been crossed, and there may have been an error in both the Open Meetings Act and the way that it needed to be posted and acted upon and voted on by the board,” he said.
Luna will remain at the district in an assistant superintendent capacity with many of the duties she had before being named superintendent last year.
Acevedo described the settlement between her and the district as a win-win solution that saved the district from having to make a large payout it may have been saddled with had board members sought termination while keeping a quality employee.
“That’s why we felt it was such a good deal rather than just paying her hundreds of thousands of dollars to just go away,” Acevedo said. “Again, it wasn’t a personality issue. We felt that this was the best business decision, and it worked best for both parties.”
The settlement agreement releases Valley View from any and all liability and potential liability arising out of Luna’s separation from her employment there.
The district will pay Luna $185,000 — her annual salary when she was named superintendent — in 12 installments from Feb. 1, 2021 to Jan. 31, 2022. She will then be paid the sum of $150,000 per year for two years from Feb. 1, 2022 to Jan. 31, 2024, at which time the district will have the right to adjust her salary.
Luna will have a non-retaliation clause in her contract and the district agreed to remove any documents in her employment file relating to her suspension.
The district also agreed to pay $2,500 in attorney fees to Luna’s attorney.
Luna had not responded to a request for comment as of press time.
Claudia Coronado, the board president, also did not respond.
The question of who will end up leading the district in the long term remains uncertain.
Silvia Ibarra, an assistant superintendent from McAllen ISD, was named interim superintendent last month. Acevedo says her contract runs through June 30 and that he doesn’t expect the district to change leadership again before the end of the school year.
Ultimately, the decision of who’s going to fill that post is up to the board.
“The board’s going to need to sit down at a meeting and collectively decide how they want to approach this,” Acevedo said. “Whether they want to do a big search and interview, or whether they want to try Dr. Ibarra out — and if that works, that would be fine. I don’t know yet, all options are on the table at this point and nothing has been decided upon or agreed upon.”
Whoever takes the helm will likely have their work cut out for them. The district’s general fund has withered in the past five years, a phenomenon the administration attributes primarily to not budgeting for falling enrollment.
The board eyed significant steps to curtail that trend earlier this month, including shuttering the district’s police department, encouraging teacher attrition and closing a campus.
Ibarra’s tenure will likely set the pace for those financial moves. She said in an interview earlier this month that she’s happy to serve as interim superintendent as long as the board will have her.
Earlier this month, after the settlement was reached with Luna, the district’s website changed Ibarra’s title from interim superintendent to superintendent. Ibarra said that was likely an IT mistake, and the title was changed back shortly after she was notified.
Ibarra said nothing is set in stone as far as the permanent superintendent position.
“It’s going to be awhile,” she said. “I’m going to be honest with you, I haven’t even discussed that with the board. At this time my focus is on running the district and increasing the fund balance and continuing to provide a quality education to our students.”