CONSIDER THIS: Miller Jordan deserves better

Managing Editor

Michael Rodriguez

Michael Rodriguez

The years 1992 to 1995 were important to me. It was a time when Nirvana, Pearl Jam and U2—three of my favorite bands—dominated the charts, ruled the airwaves and were in heavy rotation on MTV; the Dallas Cowboys were winning Super Bowls and Sega Genesis gamers everywhere were in full geek mode over the enabling of blood in Mortal Kombat.

Oh how times have changed.

Perhaps the best part of the era was sharing the enthusiasm of the times with my friends at Miller Jordan Middle School, many of whom I’ve written about in this space. I’d even say that my experiences at Miller Jordan topped everything else going on at the time; after all, I had great teachers like Joe Ruiz, Natalia Guetzow and Nedia Lee Espinoza.

In fact, I can still recall the excitement over starting sixth grade and having more than one teacher, trying out for football, joining the band, acting tough in front of the elementary school kids over at Dr. Cash and, of course, hitting on girls. It wasn’t until my late teens that the girls actually responded, but enough about me.

Miller Jordan, for those who are unaware, was considered at that time the elite campus of the two middle schools. Sorry, Greypups, but Berta Cabaza didn’t have half the class or swag that Cougars were naturally endowed. (Yeah, I said it!)

In all seriousness though, Miller Jordan students, teachers and administrators—for the most part—nurtured a productive relationship built on respect, school operations appeared to jell, scores were excellent and the campus was without controversy.

Oh how times have changed.

It’s no secret that, in recent years, Miller Jordan has been embroiled in scandal. Consider that the school’s former principal was accused of sexual harassment, a teacher was arrested on campus and three students were charged with a state jail felony for pulling a fire alarm as a prank. Take into further consideration the fact that the campus has gone through seven different principals in six years, the most recent of which occurred Thursday evening when Mary Alice Leal of Fred Booth was transferred to Miller Jordan. She’ll be replacing Teresa Servellon, who served as principal in a temporary capacity following the departure of Mary Alice Martinez.

I’m not 100 percent sure what exactly transpired with Martinez that led to her sudden “transfer” to the Gateway to Graduation Academy, although board member Oscar Medrano has pointed to a number of controversial issues that remain unresolved, or why it was necessary for these changes to occur leading up to and right in the middle of the first week of school, but what I know for certain is that it was all done—whether directly or indirectly—at the expense of Miller Jordan’s students and staff.

As a former student of Miller Jordan whose family and friends attended the school, I’m offended by the treatment its students and faculty have incurred over the years and I’m equally appalled by our decision makers’ lack of vision for the campus. Miller Jordan, its educators and students deserve better.

That’s why I’ve decided to issue a challenge to the San Benito CISD Board of Trustees, interim superintendent Alfonso Obregón and any department heads responsible for the school’s progress, including Principal Leal. Turn Miller Jordan around before the end of the school year or explain your failure to the public in the form of a guest column in the San Benito News. The community will judge Miller Jordan’s progress in the form of an online poll, which we’ll post at on May 1, 2014 until graduation on June 6.

Should you fail, you’ll be asked to collaborate on a guest column identifying your shortcomings. And judging by your late start, I suggest you do the following:

Spare no expense;

Make no excuses;

Hold yourselves accountable;

And, as we said in the early 90s, just do it.

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    • Nate on April 8, 2014 at 1:01 pm
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    Heard that a group of teachers were interviewed…who selected these teachers? Interesting.

    • JJ on September 9, 2013 at 10:03 am
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    i agree with you Scottie when we went to miller jordan i remember this feeling like we were in the best middle school in sb and it almost felt like the staff cared now it seems like they might just be there to collect a PAY CHECK… it saddens me to see what mjms has become… i pray that your challenge is met and surpassed for our childrens sake

    • Fact on September 4, 2013 at 8:05 am
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    As a district employee, I can tell you for a fact that Mr. Limon would make campus visits randomly throughout the year, especially at the beginning of the year and during testing time to see how things were going. I have yet to see any administration since he has been gone (Obregon, or anyone else) do that. I understand that admin might be busy doing this or that, but the heart of the school district is the students. Make effort to show that you care. Roll up your sleeves. Get involved.


    • James Kohn on September 3, 2013 at 10:16 pm
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    As a former educator at MJMS ( from 1999 to 2006 when it closed for remodeling) I can tell you that the years I taught science there under Limon as principal were exemplary years. Mr. Limon had forged a cohesive unit of staff and students that knew no limits to what they could achieve. When Limon left is when things started to go south. The once cohesive staff was unravelled and allowed to drift in the wind, teachers never knew who was really in charge. The support staff was always there – Tila and the rest of the office staff have always been an amazing unit to work with – but I’m pretty sure the rest of my former coworkers will agree that things took a downward turn when Limon left. I cannot speak for the years after it reopened – I stayed out at Riverside as long as I could take it – and I now teach for another district. The things that ‘Howard Johnson” mentions are possible to be taught, and indeed ARE being successfully taught, at my district. Its all about leadership.
    I am not clear about all the rumbling over the editors “challenge”. It doesn’t sound to me like he is trashing the school; it sounds to me that he is expressing a positive hope in MJMS’s future. I also hope the school gets turned around. Some of the best people I know still work there, and an awful lot of my former students went there as well. A few of them are teaching along side me at my school! GO COUGARS!!!

    • Edith on September 3, 2013 at 9:43 pm
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    Mr. Editor, I would say that ALL CAMPUSES in SBCISD should be held accountable. What happened to the focus on academic achievement? Somewhere down the line, during these last couple of years, have the board of trustees forgotten to hold everyone accountable. It starts at the top. When was the last time a central office director spent any quality time on a campus? Let us all put the focus back on instruction. That is why schools exist!

    • Selena on September 2, 2013 at 8:36 pm
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    The logo for Miller Jordan used to have the following words below the cougar mascot. ” A Spirit of Excellence” The teachers and students lived up to that expectation.

  1. I wonder why the Board of Texas Education has not made it mandatory an instructional class in middle school for students to take and pass a two semester class that covers the discipline on how to study effectively, manage time for dong home work, test taking, note taking in class, listening and attending class. If you teach it they will learn it and retain it. What we need hear is solutions to create better students.

    • former student on September 1, 2013 at 11:04 pm
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    Many years ago when I attended Miller Jordan, I recalled a teacher who was very dedicated, was always dressed professionally, and inspired the whole class to succeed. A truly role model for the entire campus. A teacher I will always remember, Mr. Olivo. It is hard to find a teacher of that calibur these days. Many seem fustrated by the middle part of the school year. I am surprised the school board has never named a school after him, now that he is passed on. He never gave up on his students.

    1. I remember the name. What did he teach?

        • Reform San Benito on September 2, 2013 at 1:42 pm
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        Seems to me he taught dedication, inspiration and how to dress professionally. 😉

        1. He wasn’t my teacher, clearly. I still cannot dress professionally.

    • Can't Wait For Election Day!!!!!!!!!! on September 1, 2013 at 8:53 pm
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    If the teachers, support staff, back her up she will succeed and Turn MJ MS around ….and of course with sudents’ following rules, directions etc… She should of been Principal at the High School… But oh well…hey its just a thought..Maybe next year Mrs Leal!! ……..lets see how these changes improve ( board’s decision)… Our District. I’LL BE WATCHING 🙂

    • sbperson on September 1, 2013 at 8:49 pm
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    Lets also remember, Rome was not built in a year. If you think it takes a year to fix mjms problems, your not serious about your challenge. I can see mjms improving but not everything can be fixed within a year like you are expecting. Things have changed since you were in school.

    1. Mediocrity is made in such ways. If you think district leaders and students cannot turn Miller Jordan around in a year, then you underestimate them. And yes, I am serious. The things you mentioned that have changed since I was in school have little to do with one of the things still expected of our educators and students today: to achieve excellence.

        • sbperson on September 2, 2013 at 11:37 am
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        I don’t underestimate them, that’s clearly an assumption your making. I expect progress to be made, but not all the problems can be met in one year, if you think you it can then you should try running a school and see first hand how it really is.

        1. Wait a second. Does this mean you believe the students and staff with the help of administration and the Board of Trustees do not have the potential to turn Miller Jordan around in one school year? If this is case, then I’m saddened to say that I did make an assumption. I have a bit more faith in the students and staff, which is why I believe they can meet the challenge. Consider my column added motivation in the form of a call for accountability.

            • sbperson on September 2, 2013 at 3:08 pm
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            I don’t think you understood my comment clearly, I think the staff and students can try and turn around things but they have to work together. Like I said if you think it so easy you should try it. Since your issuing a challenge to all the above, does this mean you don’t have faith in them?

            1. Let’s be specific about the challenge I issued, sbperson. I’m referring to the time-frame detailed in my column, which is one school year. Here’s some of what you had to say about the possibilities of meeting such a challenge:

              “Lets also remember, Rome was not built in a year. If you think it takes a year to fix mjms problems, your not serious about your challenge.”

              “I expect progress to be made, but not all the problems can be met in one year, if you think you it can then you should try running a school and see first hand how it really is.”

              So yes, I understand you perfectly, sbperson. I understand that the only person who’s expressed doubt in the ability of our elected officials, administrators, educators and students meeting my challenge has, ironically, been you. Unless, of course, you misspoke? Otherwise, it appears as though you’re already making excuses for a failure that has yet to occur.

              On your other comment reasoning that by issuing a challenge I somehow lack faith in the aforementioned people, understand that you’re confusing a challenge with a bet. A bet usually implies that the parties involved in the wager are certain of one outcome and doubtful of another. My challenge is based on the belief that it can be done.

              • sbperson on September 2, 2013 at 5:05 pm
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              my point is you cant expect to fix all your problems in that amount of time, a school year is not one year. I never misspoke, you just misunderstand. You said I had a lack of faith first, or did you forget to point that out? Let me make myself clear since you seem to not understand, I never said I had doubts about the teachers, school board, kids, etc.. like your saying. I said you cant expect to fix all the school problems in a school year, new ones keep popping up. I also said I expect to see progress, I dont know where you got that I had a lack of faith.

              1. Yes, I can expect it. The people responsible for the school’s progress are quite capable. This is very simple, sbperson. The challenge is one school year, the length of which has never been in dispute to warrant your odd explanation of the difference between a year and a school year. I believe it can be done; you do not. Are you missing something here or backpedaling so fast that you’ve now begun to make absolutely no sense?

              • sbperson on September 3, 2013 at 7:02 pm
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              I think your used to thinking your right all the time, its pointless debating with you. I think your just incapable of understanding because no one can be right but you in your little mind, sb editor.Its come down to the point where your starting to sarcastic remarks because thats what your left with. If miller jordan doesn’t fix all their problems in the year, well you can say they tried. If you think it’s easy, well whats holding you back, try it out for yourself “genius”

              1. There was no sarcasm in my reply; I was being literal. I also never said the challenge would be easy; I said the people responsible are quite capable. Then there’s this:

                If you think it’s easy, well whats holding you back, try it out for yourself “genius”

                Really? Let’s do a recap here. I write a column calling for Miller Jordan’s redemption because its students and staff deserve better, yet you appear somewhat offended due to a monumental misinterpretation of the article and have even gone as far as to spitefully suggest that I “try it out.” I’m sorry, sbperson, but I’m not going to “try it out” nor am I going to practice medicine, litigate or attempt to fly an airplane. I will, however, hold accountable an educational institution that is in desperate need of accountability. Regardless of who’s right or wrong, everybody who cares should be on board with that.

          • sbperson on September 3, 2013 at 7:15 pm
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          I enjoyed going back and forth discussing this with you even though you took my comments out of context by nit picking them, but that’s what editors do. You can’t expect everyone to agree with you, but ill leave it at that and wait to see how this school year goes.

          1. You and I have very different ideas of what editors do.

    • The one and only TILA on September 1, 2013 at 8:09 pm
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    Now wait just a cotton pickin mintue, unlike the rms titanic, mjms is still here and it is home to a lot of us. Miller Jordan is like a very good taco. No matter what the ingredients it contains IT IS ALL GOOD! I love this campus. To our mj parents let me tell you I love our students and I am more then sure that the rest of my comrades do to. True we had changes but its okay, we WILL survive no matter what. Let me also say ROME wasn’t built in a day. I look forward to a great year no matter who is at the top. And for those of you that think negative about us, I say to you. Please shut up you mouse that’s right mouse, and leave us alone. Hey media people just remember when and if you do make that judgement call, sooner or later you will be judge by some one higher than all us of us put together .

    I leave you with this commit that is said over the mjms air waves daily, Cougars YOU ROCK!

    1. I’m not understanding some of your comments. I’ll be judged by someone higher for doing what exactly? Calling for the improvement of one of our local middle schools? Guilty as charged, I suppose.

      By the way, I liked your “very good taco” comparison.

        • The one and only TILA on September 3, 2013 at 6:14 am
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        I said to leave us alone!

        1. You’ve completely missed the boat.

    • sbperson on September 1, 2013 at 10:19 am
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    I think we will see improvement in mjms that’s been needed, mrs leal is one tough principal. if you want to be proved wrong, just wait and see, and then you can write a nice little column about your “judgement”

    1. Proven wrong about what exactly? And I’d love to write a column–little or otherwise–about the school’s success. But let’s make it happen first.

        • sbperson on September 1, 2013 at 8:37 pm
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        Well by issuing a challenge means you doubt there will be success, unless proven otherwise.

        1. No, that’s an assumption. I’m issuing the challenge so that it can be met.

    • Former Student on August 31, 2013 at 10:45 am
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    I as well was a student at MJMS. I remember having teachers who challenged and inspired their students. Some of these teachers included Mr. Gonzalez (Science) , Mrs. M. Rodriguez (Texas History) and Mr. Murillo (Language Arts). I recall Miller Jordan being welcoming and a place where you had the opportunity to succeed as a student. In addition to great teachers and staff, the school had to have an effective leader. Mr. Antonio Limon served as principal at my time at MJMS. Mr. Limon’s accomplishments at MJMS paved the way for future success. MJMS does deserve better and hopefully the new principal can lead just as Mr. Limon did.

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