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Nov 09 2018

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‘The Apparent Few’: A Lesson in PR

The Inside Scoop

Ray Quiroga

publisher@sbnewspaper.com

NOVEMBER 9-15, 2018

 

Longtime SBCISD Public Relations Director, Celia Longoria did not resign from her post after 20 years of service to the district. Nor was she fired. She was pushed out. She was called, under a false pretense, to what she thought was a personnel meeting where she was ambushed by Superintendent, Dr. Nate Carman and a HR representative and given two options: resign or be fired. She was given the hard sell encouraging her to resign, for the sake of her career, of course. Blindsided, she asked for time to consider her options, but she was told leaving the meeting wouldn’t be possible and that a decision had to be made then and there. She chose to resign, believing resigning would be better than blemishing an otherwise admirable career. But here’s my advice, being that she already technically resigned, she needs to lawyer up, and it’s my understanding that she has, because she was under duress and by resigning, she waved her rights to certain benefits that are potentially owed to her.

Longoria had been the district’s PR director for two decades, outlasting a number of administrations and superintendents dating back to the Joe D. Gonzalez era. Longoria and we in the media, sat at opposite ends of the spectrum, meaning our job in the media was to acquire information and hers was that of the district’s gatekeeper, of sorts, but when the dust settled, I believe there was mutual respect and understanding, not just between this media outlet but many others from far and wide, and she has the awards and accolades to prove it. Just this weekend, I was sent an inquiry by a citizen regarding the district. I wasn’t sure of the answer and I referred the parent to Longoria, whom I’ve always considered to be a liaison between the community and the district. That citizen was reluctant, explaining that she didn’t trust the district. My response was to say, Longoria is neither friend nor foe, but she’s a professional and she’ll answer your question because she’s the consummate professional. That’s something the top levels of the district’s current administration, as well as certain members of the board, sorely lack these days.

Take, for instance, the behavior of board president Michael Vargas, whom engaged in a rather odd and amusing exchange on social media late last week which culminated in him saying that I lacked integrity when I noted the fact that he and certain members of the board and the administration have been less than transparent on a number of issues during Carman’s short, but already tumultuous tenure here. Suffice it to say, I was amazed that the board president wanted to get into a conversation about integrity given his and the district’s recent and past exploits.  Seriously, would you want to talk about integrity when a loyal district employee of 20 years was forced to resign while someone there for less than year is sitting at home, maybe collecting a paycheck at the taxpayers’ expense as the district dodges questions about the matter? I replied by just saying that I’d put my integrity and reputation on the line against his and certain individuals at the administration building any day of the week.

Then came the morning after the bond election, the same morning that Longoria “resigned,” ironically enough, when Vargas posted, “Citizens of San Benito CISD have spoken loud and clear! Tough leadership means making tough decisions that are not popular to an apparent few; we have overcome that, and memories will not run short…”

Well, Mr. Vargas, I hate to toss a drink on your alternative facts, but considering that the district and the mysterious SPAC poured what will likely amount to tens of thousands of dollars in marketing to push the bond through, in the end, the bond passed by a mere 554 votes of the 6,438 ballots cast; that’s hardly considered a mandate from the people. The exchange birthed the hashtag #theapparentfew by one resident.

But possibly more curious was the last part of that statement, “…memories will not run short.” A number of people on social media replied to that portion of the statement, taking the comment as a threat or challenge. But I saw the remark as a small insight toward the overall attitude that we’re seeing from the district and on the board. These are not the words and actions of leaders but rather the words and actions of bullies who think less of others, including members of the community not connected to the district. Their lack of respect towards their own employees is and the taxpayer stems from fear and cowardice and you can smell the fear from a mile away, or at least I can. True leaders don’t refuse to answer questions. True leaders don’t have to earn staff loyalty by distributing $100 bills or curry favor with the public with the promise of free barbeque or threaten their employees and community members into submission.

The irony is that both Vargas and Carman pride themselves on being forward thinkers, progressives, for lack of a better term, but many of their attitudes, tactics and actions mirror the current administration in Washington, which they denounce. Which leads me to this, the exchange on social media between Vargas and myself referenced earlier concluded with me posing a challenge to the board president, and I’ll issue it again here. My proposition was simple: let’s debate the issues I’ve been raising in my columns on Vargas’ turf, the administration building’s board room. I’ll promote it, pack the room and pass the hat. The money collected will go toward a local charity of the board president’s choice. We’ll record the debate and post it on social media and our respective websites for all to see. If Vargas scores a decisive victory, I’ll cease from publishing these columns, or at least stop investigating the school district. But if I score a decisive victory, Vargas steps down and come May, the district can hold a special election to fill his seat on the board. Now that would be taxpayer money well spent.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.sbnewspaper.com/2018/11/09/the-apparent-few-a-lesson-in-pr/

10 comments

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  1. Rosalinda G. Garcia

    I am one of “the apparent few” who stood at the corners with a sign stating vote ‘AGAINST.” On election day I held a small megaphone to help me resonate to voters one of several valid messages. A few voters came over and thanked me for being a voice. One individual expressed the following……..When you reminded me of the SOUTHWEST KEYS failed plan, that made me decide. As I was driving over here I still was not 100% sure if I would be voting for the bond though my family all voted AGAINST. When you stated the FAILED SOUTHWEST KEYS fiasco and how some community members had alerted SBCISD Board Members about jeopardizing school funds and how teachers were unwillingly transferred to SW Keys, that did it. I VOTED AGAINST!

    The bond passed and I look forward to these facilities going into the planning phase and construction. I never stated that I did not want these facilities or that our students were not deserving. What I did state was the rushed bond committee planning and the price tag that was not justifiable. I learned quite a bit in this whole process. I learned that bonds can be used to purchase buses and other items but have to be stated in the proposed plan for public to know before a vote. I learned how much debt we previously had and will go up to 101 million. I learned the size of PAC’s other districts have built and cost. I have learned that LaJoya has a large enrollment, etc. etc. I can say that I shared several facts with the community thru Facebook opposing the bond and why. I can also add that I don’t recall ever posting on FB stating that proponents were giving misleading information, lies, instilling vitriol fear, selfish, political gamemanship, political mis-truths, propaganda.

    I am certain that if the actions that Dr. Carmen took with regard to Mrs.Celia Longoria, our most recent public relations advocate, had she been forced to resign prior to election day, without doubt there would have been a few more ‘AGAINST” votes. MRS. LONGORIA IS THE GOLD STANDARD. She has been with the district for at least 20 years and has worked under 6 superintendents prior to Dr. Carmen, 6 superintendents!!! Has consistently been a very professional, welcoming, knowledgeable, friendly, public relations director. Has been outstanding year after year, showcasing our students, staff, and departments. Excellent at public speaking and her presentations at board meetings are always excellent. Everything doesn’t just fall into place, its her education and superior skills that makes it possible. Thank-you Mrs. Longoria!

    I am hoping that when the school board breaks to executive session tonight, and should Mrs. Longoria’s resignation be discussed, my hope is that they do what’s best for the district. That they DO NOT ACCEPT her resignation. Now Dr. Carmen might state if her resignation is not accepted he might have to step down? How will the board deal with another resignation? The media! The public! Oh no! Michael Vargas, School Board President, recently touched on the subject of tough decisions that have to be made and sometimes don’t fall well on “THE APPARENT FEW.” Well Dr. Carmen’s decision with regard to Celia Longoria has not fallen well with this ‘APPARENT FEW” member. She is one of many outstanding employees that have left our district and continue to do so. At this point, I am assuming that Mrs.Celia Longoria would like to just be given the opportunity to finish the school year and then move on. If she has to be re-assigned to another position I can bet that would be very acceptable to her. A lot of emotion, pride, loyalty, is at stake here. Again, SHE IS SBCISD GOLD STANDARD!!!

    In conclusion, I am a small voice, I am “the apparent few.” I am a voice that is not an employee of any school district. I am able to freely speak and wholeheartedly understand how some employees would also like to be a voice but carry a common concern, retaliation.

    SILENCE DOES NOT GENERATE PROGRESS. THANK-YOU SAN BENITO NEWS!

    1. I wondered too...

      Next school board reelection.. you should run against one of them Ms. Rosalinda G. Garcia. I will come out and join your campaign. I even heard that one of the newly elected board member .. who flashed their smile to public while campaigning..now gives the people the (snobby) cold shoulder. Ughh.. ( just observe those board members.. you’ll know who).

    2. Former

      Mrs. Rosalind have you seen the video posted of this past Tuesday night board meeting at San Benito CISD? When you also spoke. San Benito CISD deleted the part of the man who spoke in regards of the board members, that’s wrong! Where is the transparency of the school district board? all that says ( and loudly) is that the board members don’t want for the public to know what that man spoke and in doing so they desive the community

  2. Former Employee

    I went through a very similar thing with the principal, and Kevin Phillips..Dr Carman and the school board president (I’ll be sure to vote him out)… Just like I voted him in)…didn’t want to see my side.. now I’m having a difficult time finding employment. It’s coming full circle and soon that principal will get her day.

    1. Rosalinda G. Garcia

      Sorry to hear “former employee.” I am also submitting a letter under this article I make a point of how much emotion is at stake with regard to Celia Longoria. But this applies to everyone including yourself. We have lost tenured teachers and principals to other districts. I just know it must have been a difficult decision for them as well, emotion.

      And we have due process. That is why employees that are dismissed without cause win cases in court. Why? Because they are wronged. Best to you “Former Employee.”

  3. George H Hobbs

    Well put Ray.Keep up the good work.Let’s rid San Benito of Vargas and Carmine,both leech’s of our tax dollars.By the way,where did that last kid that was superintendent for less than a year go,is by chance he a selected contractor,or service provider for the school system ?

    1. I wondered too...

      The last two supers (Vega and Puig) have jobs in other Texas district.. Google them.. They both look like they are doing great! And the current super and missing asst super..came from same district..area.. so.. that’s leaves a lot to think about and investigate… GOOGLE for info.. I did. SBCISD .. needs to really dig deep when they hire. Plus Good luck to all with the upcoming debt you voted for.

  4. Marty Nicol

    Why were they afraid of her? She is the consummate professional which is confirmed by the mere fact that she has held her job for some 20 years. Wonder who will be hired to take her position?

    1. George H Hobbs

      I think Vargas has got a sister,that’s looking for work.

      1. Rosalinda G. Garcia

        No sister looking for work. I really don’t recall meeting a sister when I campaigned for him the first time he ran.

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