Former administrator sues Edcouch-Elsa ISD over firing

The Edcouch-Elsa ISD administration building in an undated photo. (Courtesy photo)

A former Edcouch-Elsa Independent School District administrator sued the district last week, claiming the district terminated him wrongly last year during an administrative personnel shakeup that followed Superintendent Gregory Rodriguez joining the district.

A lawsuit filed by Domingo Rodriguez, who served as assistant director for transportation for about three years, says he was 63 when he was fired on June 15, 2021.

Rodriguez, who is also a former board trustee at the district, is seeking between $250,000 and $1 million in damages, claiming the district discriminated against him because of his age.

Superintendent Rodriguez declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The suit describes Domingo Rodriguez being told by the superintendent that his termination was “In the best interest of the district.”

However, the suit points out, Rodriguez was given his termination notice a day before the district’s board met on June 16 and that the board couldn’t have discussed his termination at that point.

“Superintendent Gregory Rodriguez gave no explanation for Plaintiff’s termination when he informed him that his employment was to end,” documents read. “Curiously, Defendant provided the reason to the Texas Workforce Commission in a Determination of Payment of Unemployment Benefits dated July 19, 2021, that Defendant had terminated Plaintiff because of a “layoff due to a reduction in force.””

The suit firmly denies that Superintendent Rodriguez gave a reduction in force as the reason for the termination when it happened. It also said a report made by an attorney investigating Rodriguez’s age discrimination complaint for the district said the superintendent “Wanted to wait for an appropriate time to make personnel changes” and did not mention a reduction in force.

Rodriguez was highly qualified and received no negative performance evaluation, the suit said. Despite that, it said he was ultimately replaced by two individuals who are more than 10 years younger than him and less qualified to fulfill the role of assistant transportation director.

One of those replacements — Alberto Barco — is related to current board trustee Tony Barco, the suit states.

Trustee Barco did not respond to a request for comment by presstime.

According to the suit, Rodriguez filed a level three grievance appeal in January but had still not been granted a grievance hearing by last week despite the superintendent being required to place that hearing on the board’s agenda.

Rodriguez claims that he’s just one of several individuals to fall victim to a pattern of age discrimination against older employees at the district since Superintendent Rodriguez replaced Richard Rivera in that role.

The suit claims the district forced out Transportation Director Martin Rodriguez — no relation to either of the other Rodriguezes — by informing him he would be terminated if he did not retire. It also lists five other administrators who Rodriguez claims were replaced by younger employees in the wake of Superintendent Rodriguez taking the helm, among them Ruben C. Rodriguez Elementary Principal Mari Olivarez.

Those changes and reassignments — Olivarez’s in particular — sparked a relatively large protest at the district in May 2021.

Tensions ran high in the community and on the board, where Superintendent Rodriguez’s actions were criticized by Trustees Fernando Torres and Juan Jose “J.J.” Ybarra.

“He decided — he didn’t even let the board know — to just rearrange a bunch of principals, move people around who had been at their respective schools for a long time and gave no notice to parents … parents and teachers and staff were very upset,” Ybarra told The Monitor on Monday.

Ybarra said contention over those reassignments and subsequent issues contributed to he and Torres taking legal action to delay the board voting on Superintendent Rodriguez’s contract last month.

The board is currently waiting on the results of a climate survey before revisiting the superintendent’s contract, Ybarra said.

“We felt that a lot of things are being swept under the rug and this is an opportunity for the employees to speak without fear of intimidation,” he said