New era sets in for La Joya ISD as TEA officially takes over school board

Marcey Sorensen, La Joya ISD acting superintendent, is seen at the first school board meeting on Feb. 7, 2024, after the TEA officially took over the district. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])
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LA JOYA — A special school board meeting here ushered in a new era as a TEA-appointed school board and acting superintendent were welcomed to the district through public comments.

The board then voted on employment and a relocation agreement for acting superintendent Marcey Sorensen.

The TEA appointed the board and Sorenson earlier this month after an investigation recommended the action due to fraud and conflicts of interest that have resulted in criminal charges for past officials.

On Wednesday, the newly appointed administration got their first taste of La Joya ISD meetings, which began with board introductions and talk of their experience and ties to La Joya and its school district.

Community members, the La Joya American Federation of Teachers, and the La Joya Association of Texas Professional Educators also took to public comments to welcome the new administration and shared issues and concerns they had.

The school board also unanimously voted on the positions of president, vice president and secretary.

Julian Alvarez III, executive vice president-director of Community Relations at Lone Star National Bank, was voted school board president; Anita Chavez, an environment compliance specialist and second generation LJISD alumna, as vice president; and Alyssa Peña, another alumna and senior solutions sales manager for Ford Motor Company, as board secretary.

The school board also voted unanimously to approve an employment and relocation agreement with Sorensen.

The school district will pay Sorensen $1,250 per day until the 21-day waiting period is over and she will receive $25,000 for relocation expenses.

Julian Alvarez III, La Joya ISD school board president, is seen at the first school board meeting on Feb. 7, 2024, after the TEA officially took over the district. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

La Joya ISD and Sorensen now have the required waiting period to finalize a contract and officially make her the superintendent.

Keeping her 90-day promise of learning the district’s ins-and-outs, Sorensen was already on the move visiting La Joya ISD campuses such as Juarez-Lincoln High School and Jimmy Carter Early College High School.

“I learned that we have amazing children, a dedicated staff … that we have really strong principals who are focused on the right work,” she said. “Our educators are working hard to get great programs to support kids. I just want to continue to listen, learn and hear from the community, how they want to continue to move forward.”

The school lastly voted on authorizing Sorensen to sign a contract with a new law firm, Thompson and Horton, and requested that TEA appoint a conservator for the school district which would help assist the new superintendent and administration.