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McALLEN — The McAllen school board voted to terminate the contract regarding black box theaters for its high schools and to not proceed with the project due to budget constraints at a meeting Monday night.

School board President Debbie Crane Aliseda said the project started back in 2020 and on June 13, 2022, the school board approved the request for proposals for the project and on May 8, 2023 approved a contract with Noble Texas Builders LLC to begin negotiations over the project.

The project was to build three black box theaters for the mariachi and theater arts programs at McAllen High, Memorial and Nikki Rowe to use.

Fast forward to Jan. 22 and the school board approved a resolution to uncommit funds for the project.

“Personally, I’m a huge advocate for fine arts, so it was a sad day for me to see it be uncommitted,” Aliseda said. “However, it’s a very rational reasoning behind it, because our financial status is so much different than it was back in 2019, 2020, when we made this decision. We didn’t know we’d be in this position with not getting the funding from the state.”

The project is under the ESSER II local funds balance with the black box theaters having a budget of $12 million with about $1 million already being allocated for the project.

Aliseda said the remaining project funds, which is just under $11 million, will be moved to the general fund balance to help with the district’s budget deficit.

“It’s a sad, necessary step that we have to take because public school districts are held hostage right now,” she said.

The meeting agenda states that Noble Texas Builders LLC submitted a guaranteed maximum price of about $14 million, which was about $2 million above the total project budget.

The school board voted unanimously to terminate the contract and to pay $11,500 for pre-construction services through the ESSER II funds.

Just this past weekend, all three McAllen ISD mariachi programs performed at the State Mariachi Festival, with each earning a top ranking at the contest — the second year in a row for all three programs.

Evelyn Cano, a parent of a second-generation mariachi in Mariachi Azteca at Rowe High School, expressed how proud she is of all McAllen’s mariachi programs’ performances.

She also wants to continue working with the school board to achieve that.

“We hope … that we have equity in resources and funding for our (mariachi) students,” Cano said. “So, as parents, that’s what we’ll continue doing at every school board meeting and continue moving forward and advocating for them.”

Frank Chavero, another parent of a second-generation mariachi in McAllen High’s Mariachi Oro, said he was a part of Mariachi Oro in the 1990s and values music education but also acknowledged the financial situation the district is facing.

“We understand that our elected leaders have a difficult position to make these decisions and that they’re doing their best to balance the interest of the community and the kids and the parents,” Chavero said.

He added the tight-knit McAllen ISD mariachi community hopes to provide a level playing field with other district music programs and to continue having good dialogue with the school board over the program’s funding and other necessities.

“This is something that is a passion for me and my daughter personally, and so we’re just going to continue to give (the school board) grace but also hold them accountable for the importance of funding projects and funding this program,” Cano said.