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La Joya ISD issued a statement from attorney Jerry “Jaime” Muñoz Tuesday denouncing a hearing on potential Texas Education Agency intervention at the district held earlier this week, along with criticizing the investigation that preceded it.

The TEA recommended earlier this summer appointing a board of managers at the district following a special investigation, the findings of which were at the center of a hearing Monday.

A judge is expected to deliver findings of fact and conclusions of law based on that hearing by early October, after which TEA Commissioner Mike Morath will decide whether to move ahead with intervention.

Alejandro “Alex” Cantu

In Monday’s hearing, district legal counsel focused largely on asking TEA witnesses about the details of their investigation, focusing particularly on areas where they appeared to lack knowledge about events at La Joya ISD.

TEA counsel, on the other hand, focused a significant amount of time on current Board President Alex Cantu and his relationship to a nonprofit that was run in part by his wife.

Testimony about Cantu and that relationship was critical and included a statement from Ashley Jernigan, TEA’s associate commissioner for governance, compliance and investigations, who testified that it is her “understanding that there are criminal investigations open related to trustee Cantu.”

In his statement Tuesday, Muñoz wrote that that testimony pointed to faults in the agency’s investigation.

“During the hearing, it became evident that the TEA investigation was not as comprehensive or unbiased as a matter of this gravity requires,” the statement reads. “Witnesses provided testimony that seemed aimed more at justifying predetermined conclusions than shedding light on actual facts. When pressed about the foundations for their conclusions, TEA representatives admitted they had not conducted thorough research into the issues at hand. This raises serious questions about the validity of their findings and recommendations.”

A district spokesperson did not respond to a request emailed Monday morning asking specifics about where the TEA investigation was incomplete.

Muñoz criticized the agency’s response to the district requesting aid on issues at the district.

“Further exacerbating our concerns was TEA’s lack of responsiveness when La Joya ISD proactively reached out for assistance,” he wrote. “Despite our best efforts to collaborate and resolve any potential issues, our calls for support were met with silence.

“Remarkably, the same agency that failed to offer guidance later used our request for help as a basis to criticize the District for alleged shortcomings. We find this contradiction not just disheartening but deeply troubling.”

Texas Education Agency Deputy Commissioner of Governance Steve Lecholop speaking Monday, July 31, 2023, about potential state intervention at La Joya ISD. (Monitor Photo)

Last December, the La Joya school board invited the agency to send a monitor or conservator to the district, which would have been a lesser level of intervention than a board of managers.

A district spokesperson did not by press time say whether that was the assistance Muñoz was referring to or whether he was referencing some other request for help. The spokesperson also did not respond to an emailed request asking for the specifics about the request.

In his statement, Muñoz also accused TEA witnesses of making assertions that “were not only unfounded and wrong but also completely false.”

A district spokesperson did not by press time respond to requests for comment on what testimony Muñoz was referring to as being false in addition to the names of witnesses the district said provided such testimony.

The letter expresses concern over the possibility of a board of managers being appointed and emphasizes current leadership’s commitment to good governance, echoing the district’s general stance over the past couple of months.

“La Joya ISD remains hopeful that the truth will prevail as the process continues,” it reads. “The district invites all interested parties to keep abreast of developments through our official communication channels.”


Board President Cantu in the spotlight at La Joya TEA hearing