By HEATHER CATHLEEN COX
Another San Benito educator was arrested this week on child molestation charges.
David Noyola, Band Director at Miller Jordan Middle School of San Benito, was arrested on Aug. 13, for sexually assaulting a minor – this after former San Benito CISD educator, Jose N. Mendez Jr., was accused of molesting one of his students. Mendez had multiple prior accusations regarding inappropriate conduct concerning minors and had reportedly been placed on administrative leave at least twice for such infractions.
After each occurrence, Mendez was ultimately reinstated and reassigned campuses; he was eventually transferred to Landrum Elementary by San Benito CISD Superintendent of Schools Antonio G. Limón and is currently suspended with pay.
Former Berta Cabaza Middle School Choir Director, Alfredo Hernandez Jr., was arrested in October 2012 for allegedly attempting to solicit a 12-year-old Harlingen girl via Facebook. Coincidentally, Hernandez’ predecessor at BCMS—Ramiro C. Lozano, who served as Berta Cabaza choir director from 1998-2007—was arrested in December 2008 and pled guilty in 2009 to two counts of sexual exploitation of young children.
With regard to the high number of SBCISD educators who have been accused of criminal activity against minors in recent years and whether or such occurrences warranted refining the district’s hiring procedures, Limón insists, “Even if we had a personnel director, the recommendation to hire comes from (each) campus. All of those people (accused of child abuse) didn’t have a criminal background at the time of hire. We follow the same system that everybody else uses. Later on, it was revised and the FBI database is on there as well. All I can say is (all of the) criminal checks were clear, and this is an ongoing investigation. That’s all I can say.”
Trustee Oscar Medrano said the school board is “addressing the hiring process and background checks” on employees. Medrano continued, “I’m confident that with this new board we’re going to achieve what we’re asking.”
Medrano, however, deferred the screening process to the Human Resources Department. “Screening would be up to HR. Background checks clearly indicate what individuals have done. We’re going to work with HR representatives and hopefully come up with something that will benefit everyone.”
With no Director of Human Resources at this time, Board President Arnold Padilla has raised concern for the district’s future hiring processes. “The district has been several years without a HR director, at least five years, maybe more,” Padilla said.
“We are looking at hiring a HR director (this year),” Padilla informed. “I was adamant about it. When a district this size does not have a HR director (we lack) correct policy and procedure to avoid this type of situation. These are severe issues (officials) all have to deal with for the concern and safety of our students.”
Moving forward, Padilla said, “We hope to place someone in HR who will be competent and assure us we have created (security for) students and staff.”
Regarding whether or not he thought this year’s budget would include a new Human Resources Director, Limón declined comment.
Managing a district the size of SBCISD, with the amount of grievances and disciplinary issues the district receives on an annual basis, is considered impossible by the Board President without enlisting the services of a fulltime HR Director. Padilla said, “When you don’t have one particular individual who has the (human resources) background and understands the job requirements of such a position…(we lack) a person who can create the correct policy and procedures (necessary) to avoid this type of situation.”
Further, Padilla stated that a lack of HR director has been a major concern of his, “since I was initially elected.”
Trustee Hector Leal said, “This is a very sensitive topic. I’m more than positive (Trustees) are going to take corrective action to that. It’s unfortunate that these things are happening, very often.”
Padilla, Medrano and Leal also agreed that child abuse cases in which SBCISD educators are the primary suspects are unfortunate and intolerable.
“We’ll continue to evaluate everything and protect our students, taking (all the necessary) measurements,” Padilla said.
“I’m totally against” individuals who have allegedly committed sexual acts against minors working for or being reinstated with the district, Medrano said.
Leal remarked, “It might be that we need to take a closer look at background checks… to assure that this doesn’t happen again.”
Trustee Anna Cruz deferred comment to Padilla and fellow trustee and Policy Board Chair Angel Mendez.
Trustees unavailable for comment by press time include: Fatima Huerta, Yliana González and Angel Mendez.