Only have a minute? Listen instead

The political tumult within the La Joya school board, sadly, is not unusual in the Rio Grande Valley. As board members spend their time grandstanding and bickering with each other, they seem to ignore the very reason they were elected in the first place — the educational welfare of the districts’ students.

La Joya Independent School District trustees turned their May 16 board meeting into a shouting match over a determination by the Texas Education Agency that their students’ needs weren’t being met, and the state should take over control of the district and remove all board members until the district’s biggest problems could be addressed and rectified.

After heated debate a board majority voted to oppose the TEA’s recommendation.

The agency’s decision to take over a school district and remove locally elected boards is an extreme and temporary measure, and it’s worth noting that the board itself asked for state involvement in December after two people who were on the board at the time were arrested in a federal corruption investigation. Ultimately the state decided La Joya’s problems were too great to handled without outside help.

Such decisions aren’t new in the Valley either; several districts have undergone state conservatorship and the Donna district recently was removed from state oversight and allowed to resume local control. That oversight stemmed from a 2017 bribery scandal within the district.

To be sure, while several local districts have had their problems, they remain isolated. The state’s Region One educational group that extends from Point Isabel to Laredo received the highest overall rating of all state educational regions in the TEA’s most recent evaluations, issued last September. Region One schools received an average accountability score of 88.8 out of 100, compared to the state average of 86.3 and of 83 among high-poverty districts comparable to the Valley.

The region’s high performance is testament to the many dedicated teachers and campus administrators who have been able to insulate themselves from — or perhaps even ignored by — district trustees who seem more preoccupied with what can best be described as political gang warfare.

Apparently lost in the madness is board members’ primary duty, which is to do what’s best for our children’s education.

It’s a crucial role. After all, those children in a few short years will assume control of our communities and their social and economic fortunes, and the preparation they receive today in the classroom can determine how well prepared they will be to make the best decisions for our future.

Many school board members across the Valley appear to seek election for the right reasons and take their positions seriously. But many — too many — seem more interested in running to placate their egos or to use the position as a steppingstone to other political offices in the future. Not only do they defame a system that depends on honest, dedicated elected officials, but often they are the very people who ultimately give in to personal and political predilections that create the kinds of scandals that require state intervention and compromise our children’s education.