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Betsy Combier

Help Us to Continue to Help Others »

The E-Accountability Foundation announces the

'A for Accountability' Award

to those who are willing to whistleblow unjust, misleading, or false actions and claims of the politico-educational complex in order to bring about educational reform in favor of children of all races, intellectual ability and economic status. They ask questions that need to be asked, such as "where is the money?" and "Why does it have to be this way?" and they never give up. These people have withstood adversity and have held those who seem not to believe in honesty, integrity and compassion accountable for their actions. The winners of our "A" work to expose wrong-doing not for themselves, but for others - total strangers - for the "Greater Good"of the community and, by their actions, exemplify courage and self-less passion. They are parent advocates. We salute you.

Winners of the "A":

Johnnie Mae Allen
David Possner
Dee Alpert
Aaron Carr
Harris Lirtzman
Hipolito Colon
Jim Calantjis
Larry Fisher
The Giraffe Project and Giraffe Heroes' Program
Jimmy Kilpatrick and George Scott
Zach Kopplin
Matthew LaClair
Wangari Maathai
Erich Martel
Steve Orel, in memoriam, Interversity, and The World of Opportunity
Marla Ruzicka, in Memoriam
Nancy Swan
Bob Witanek
Peyton Wolcott
[ More Details » ]
Progreso, Texas: School Board President Says He'll File Lawsuit to Block State Takeover
Education Commissioner Michael Williams sent a letter to Progreso on Wednesday, formally notifying Ramos that Texas will replace the elected seven-member school board with an appointed five-member board of managers.
   Juan Ramos Jr.   
Only on 4: Progreso school board president says he'll file lawsuit to block state takeover

Progreso school board President Juan Ramos Jr. plans to file a lawsuit against the Texas Education Agency, attempting to block a state takeover.

Education Commissioner Michael Williams sent a letter to Progreso on Wednesday, formally notifying Ramos that Texas will replace the elected seven-member school board with an appointed five-member board of managers.

Ramos said he'll seek a temporary restraining order to block the move.

"I have a term of four years," Ramos said, adding that Progreso voters elected him to the position and he's obligated to represent them. "I have unfinished business."

Ramos said he's concerned the state takeover will negatively affect students.

The Texas Education Agency moved to replace the school board after a federal corruption investigation and other scandals repeatedly cast doubt on the board's ability to manage the district.

"The Progreso Independent School District has suffered a severe loss of credibility due to multiple incidents of fraud in the transaction of the district's financial business," according to a report filed by state investigators. "The district has witnessed multiple instances of key district administrators and board members pleading guilty to defrauding the district."

FBI agents started investigating corruption at Progreso City Hall and the school district during 2004, according to federal court records.

Investigators eventually charged district Transportation and Maintenance Director Jose Guadalupe "Lupe" Vela and his two sons -- Progreso Mayor Omar Leonel Vela and school board President Michael "Mikey" Rene Vela -- with taking bribes from contractors.

The scandal involved a construction contractor, architect and attorney for the school board, according to federal court records. While executing a search warrant, FBI agents discovered a ledger listing bribes paid to public officials.

All three men pleaded guilty to conspiracy and bribery charges.

FBI agents also reviewed allegations the construction company paid bribes for business in San Benito, Brownsville, San Ysidro and the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school district.

The pay-to-play scandal wasn't the only embarrassment for Progreso.

In April 2014, state troopers arrested school board Trustee Felix Hernandez Jr. after catching him driving a tractor-trailer loaded with 1,254 pounds of marijuana, according to court records.

A grand jury later indicted Hernandez for possession of between 50 and 2,000 pounds of marijuana. He pleaded guilty in mid-December and awaits sentencing.

Amid the corruption scandal, some school board members stopped attending meetings. Without a quorum, the board couldn't conduct business.

The Texas Education Agency also investigated the school district, producing a damning report that concluded:

* The school district spent $229,260 at the Board Room Bar and Grill -- a business owned by Guadalupe Vela -- during a three-year period, but couldn't produce any purchase orders, invoices or other records to explain the 142 transactions.

* Board President Michael Vela and Trustee Juan T. Vela had 21 relatives employed by the school district, ranging from Assistant Superintendent Jose Guadalupe Vela III to Simon Munoz, a maintenance worker.

* The district paid $6,500 to former Superintendent Fernando Castillo's daughter-in-law, but could not produce any documentation to explain the payment.

Afterward, the Texas Education Agency announced it would replace the school board.

"I have nothing against the new board of managers," Ramos said, adding that he knows several of them.

Ramos, though, said Progreso moved past the problems and doesn't need a state-appointed board.

© 2003 The E-Accountability Foundation