The Inside Scoop
NOVEMBER 16-22, 2018
Among all the ironies and coincidences in the growing list of dealings, controversies and shenanigans involving the San Benito school district in recent months, arguably none is more ironic than the observation that certain members of the board and administration appear to revel in the opportunity “dish it out” especially when their manufactured ire and veiled (and not so veiled) threats are aimed at the district’s more senior staff, members of the public and certain members of business community they deem as outspoken threats against them, yet they wither at the slightest hint of possible scrutiny aimed at them.
Take, for instance, the events during this past Tuesday’s school board meeting when a board trustee attempted to berate the district’s venerable nutrition director. I won’t mention her by name as to not exacerbate the fact that she was explicitly targeted by the trustee who attempted to embarrass and intimidate her in public regarding bids and pricing of milk, putting a new twist on the phrase, “Crying over spilled milk.”
The entire episode can be viewed on the district’s website but know that conversation was a continuation of an earlier committee meeting which is also available on the district’s website. Artfully, skillfully, tactfully, like a martial artist who, with seemingly elegant and little effort, this veteran staffer managed to deconstruct the attack against her and set the record straight, all the while disarming her critic, who, moments earlier, issued one of those not-so-veiled threats towards the district’s principals and directors, “To be on notice” as it pertains to compliancy and the pricing of supplies.
Yet, on the flip-side, there’s the curious case of outspoken local businessman Chuy Aguilera whose public comments were not-so-mysteriously excluded from the video record of the same school board meeting uploaded to the district’s website, for presumably referring to school district employees, board members, and family members of the board. During his comments, Aguilera railed against the treatment of now former employees and specifically now-former district public relations director Celia Longoria who “resigned” from the district last week. Similar edits and exclusions have been done in the recent past.
In a phone conversation with Aguilera on Wednesday, Aguilera said he received notice that the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC) received a complaint against him for what he can only surmise was his outspoken stance against the recent $40 million bond election spearheaded by the district. Aguilera said he was informed to expect a letter from the TEC with more details, adding that he was told that a member of the secretive SPAC, which paid for much of the marketing which helped push the bond through, filed the complaint against him.
Then, there are our now well-documented accounts with the district, whose administration and board has refused to answer questions from our reporters, insisting to instead provide written answers to submitted questions, explaining that we’ve misrepresented their comments in the past. Again, that’s an easy copout for Superintendent Carman and members of the board who have refused to answer questions, not only from this media outlet, but others, as Channel 4 recently exposed in its report on the $31,000 the district has spent to investigate grievances and alleged harassment since January of this year.
Something that the board may want to keep in mind is that in the end, the superintendent will leave – probably at the first sign of daylight – attorneys come and go, administrators move on and the members of this community, which includes themselves, will be left to pick up the pieces and clean the mess that is left behind. In this case, that includes burnt bridges and ruined careers.
With that in mind, I’ll end with a passage from the book-turned-motion picture, “Fair Game: How a Top CIA Agent Was Betrayed by Her Own Government,” detailing the accounts of CIA operative Valerie Plame who was outed by the Bush White House in retaliation for an op-ed penned by her husband critical of the War on Terror. The passages draws from the iconic line attributed to Benjamin Franklin when he was asked, “Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” “A republic,” Franklin replied, “if you can keep it.”
The book’s protagonist, Plame’s husband, continued by saying, “The responsibility of a country is not in the hands of a privileged few. We are strong, and we are free from tyranny as long as each one of us remembers his or her duty as a citizen. Whether it’s to report a pothole at the top of your street or lies in a State of the Union address, speak out! Ask those questions. Demand that truth. Democracy is not a free ride. But, this is where we live. And if we do our job, this is where our children will live.”