La Joya ISD board approves policy barring employees from public office

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LA JOYA — The school board here voted unanimously Thursday on a new board policy that prohibits certain district employees from holding elected office with the superintendent saying it is to ensure problems of the past do not repeat themselves.

The agenda item states employees of the district are prohibited from becoming a candidate to any public office, being an elected public officer within Hidalgo County or any other county in the state that has direct or indirect contractual relationships with La Joya ISD.

It also prohibits employees from holding an elected public office that would conflict with his or her position with the district.

The Texas Education Agency recently took over the district and appointed Superintendent Marcey Sorenson and the board following criminal investigations into district employees for corruption that have resulted in convictions.

The policy would apply to assistant principals and up at campuses and any other central office position considered an administrative position that involves the supervision of other employees or that involves the administration of public funds.

Current employees who are in violation of the policy are not subject to immediate termination but will be subjected to non-renewal at the end of their current contract.

Violations of the policy by employees hired after its adoption will be considered good cause for termination and any employment applicant for the district who violates the policy is automatically disqualified.

Sorensen, the superintendent, said after the meeting that she has learned, listened and received a lot of feedback from the community in her first 70 days in office.

From her days going around the district, she recommended the policy to the board to ensure that the district does not repeat past mistakes.

“I think it’s just to ensure that what has happened here in the past doesn’t repeat itself and to ensure that integrity is what we’re moving forward with, in terms of how we serve the district,” she said. “I want to be clear that this is about clarity of role, clarity of responsibility and so that there is no conflict of interest with the district or our policy.”

Sorensen said she has heard good and supportive feedback from the policy with most feedback regarding conflict of interest within the district.

Asked about how many district employees the policy will affect, she replied, “At this moment I can’t even comment because we don’t know. Again, it’s not about a particular employee or a particular role so, I’m not even sure but we will establish processes to learn which employees and how many.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct a typo in the superintendent’s quote about district policy.