The city of Palmview approved Tuesday a resolution supporting the Texas Education Agency’s recommendation to intervene at La Joya ISD, although the city says it expects to face pressure from the district for doing so.
Palmview is not the first city in western Hidalgo County to approve a resolution weighing in on turmoil at La Joya ISD.
In May, both Penitas and Sullivan City passed similar resolutions to Palmview’s.
Palmview Mayor Ricardo Villarreal — himself a district employee with a grievance filed for what he describes as an unjustified demotion — says the council voted to approve the resolution in response to allegations of impropriety at the district that have resulted in several convictions on corruption charges and a TEA recommendation to install a board of managers, in addition to an intensely political atmosphere that’s followed those scandals.
Villarreal says he fears the community may endure further political strife because of the resolution.
At 7:51 a.m. the morning after the resolution’s approval, the city received an email from La Joya ISD attorney Jaime “Jerry” Munoz.
“Good morning. I have been instructed by my client to request from the City of Palmview a status update on construction progress on the property donated by La Joya ISD to the City,” the email reads. “As you know, the City was required to commence construction within a certain time. Please advise.”
Munoz, Palmview Mayor Ricardo Villarreal said, was referring to a 10-acre tract of land donated by the school district two years ago.
According to Villarreal, the city’s agreement with the district stipulated a groundbreaking for development within a year.
The city hasn’t broken ground, but Villarreal says it’s invested significant amounts of time and money into the project — between $120,000 and $150,000 into design alone.
The city held a community meeting near the land just Thursday to discuss plans for development, which ultimately include a park, a police department and a fire department.
“We could put a shed up there, or a fence and a backhoe and a truck, and say ‘There it is,’” Villarreal said. “But we want to do things right, and doing a project the size of this is gonna take more time, resources and money, and we’re working on getting that.”
Villarreal said he views the email as a not-so-veiled threat being made in retaliation for the council’s resolution supporting intervention.
“With all due respect, they’re trying to grab us by the n—-,” he said. “At least that’s how we took it. You don’t just construct in one year, it takes a couple of years to plan this thing out.”
La Joya ISD did not respond to requests for comment on the resolution, the land or Munoz’s email by press time.
Villarreal says the city plans to comply with the district’s request and provide it with an update. He says he views the email as an example of the type of behavior that warranted the city’s resolution and state intervention.
“It’s a threat. It doesn’t feel good,” Villarreal said. “Politically, we don’t see eye to eye on everything, but when it comes to students and community, we need to see eye to eye. Even with the politicians in our community that we don’t agree with.”
Villarreal also said this week he was contacted by the TEA about holding a community meeting on potential intervention, similar to meetings held in Penitas and Sullivan City this week.