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McAllen Independent School District trustees discussed at a workshop Tuesday a set of directives issued to the district’s superintendent in April at least in part as a response to a scandal in the district’s communications department.

Those six directives, which included policy review, a human resources audit and discussion on the district’s open records practices, originally came with a 45-day deadline.

That deadline was extended after a majority of the board changed in the May election.

Trustees have worked on the directives in committees since then.

Although Trustee Sam Saldivar noted that the directives were meant to improve processes rather than being aimed at then-superintendent J.A. Gonzalez, the fact that he left the district a month ago to helm Harlingen CISD hung over the discussion.

The board spent most of its time Tuesday discussing two directives: one requesting a human resources audit and another calling for a recommendation on a fraternization policy.

Trustees differed on how aggressively to pursue those directives, although they largely seemed to arrive at a middle ground after discussion.

Acting Superintendent Rosalba De Hoyos presented trustees with two options for a human resources audit: a $25,000 Texas Association of School Boards, or TASB, operational review, which she recommended, or a $150,000 comprehensive audit.

Dr. Rosalba De Hoyos, the district’s assistant superintendent for instructional services, laughs with Todd Miller, the district’s assistant superintendent for human resources, before the start of a school board meeting Thursday, July 27, 2023, in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

The comprehensive audit largely lacked board support. Some trustees expressed concerns over the price tag given the district’s financial situation.

“We are trying to save money right now,” Trustee Sofia Pena said. “And I think that overall, some of what we’ve talked about in the other directives also will impact our human resources department and how they operate and things that they do.”

Although there was some talk of dropping the audit altogether, trustees ultimately expressed support for the TASB review, with the possibility of a couple of add-ons.

Administration also recommended the board adopt TASB policy on fraternization.

Board President Debbie Crane Aliseda said she felt like TASB policies would cut it and worried about the board overdoing it with a lengthy, complex fraternization policy.

“I thought that it was a bit too long, and I thought that we already have policies in place … The ones that y’all referenced in the fraternization policy,” she said. “So I just felt like we may have had administration before that wasn’t following policy, but I don’t feel the need to rewrite the policy. I just feel we just need to remind administration to follow what we already have in the books.”

Other trustees voiced a desire for a more stringent policy on fraternization.

“Now we’ve had issues,” Saldivar said. “We’ve had two very profound ones that have occurred that are very disconcerting. Any one would have been very concerning for any school district, but to have three simultaneously that have come forward is very disconcerting.”

Trustees ultimately seemed pleased by letting administration combine TASB recommendations with policy developed in the board committee into something usable.

The board met administration recommendations on other directives warmly, although trustees were insistent on moving forward with holding a workshop on the district’s open records practices.

Trustees took no action on the directives.