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Feb 22 2019

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School District’s After School Program Director put on leave: Attorney threatens to “expose” the Superintendent

By J. NOEL ESPINOZA

Special to the News

 

After 14 years with the San Benito School District, After School Program Director Jack Garcia was placed on administrative leave, with pay, by district officials this week.

According to attorneys for Garcia, it was supposed to be a trip to a chess competition in Houston similar to previous years until SBCISD Superintendent Dr. Nate Carman allegedly changed the itinerary to reach the city where the event is schedule to happen.

According to Edward A. (Tony) Conners, an Austin lawyer representing Garcia, the administrator has been coordinating the trip for many years using a credit card issued under his name, but with authorization to make expenditures for school district activities.

Conners said Garcia, who is also the district chess coordinator, paid, by way of credit card, about $17,000 to purchase a group rate flight through Southwest Airlines to take about 50-plus students (K-12) to Houston for a chess competition to be held in March. However, he said Carman instructed Garcia to cancel the flight, lease buses, and reimburse the school district the non-refundable money spent on the flight.

After the fiasco, Conners said the school district placed Garcia on administrative leave. Conner believes Carman likely is going to try to fire him on Monday (Feb. 25), the day the school district has a regular board meeting. The meeting’s agenda, which is posted on the district website, doesn’t clarify if Garcia or the situation will be addressed.

In an email to the News, SBCISD Interim Public Relations Director Isabel Gonzalez confirmed that Jack Garcia is currently on paid administrative leave pending an ongoing investigation.

“All credit card purchases require an approved purchase order prior to use of card and no employee shall order or receive goods without an approved purchase order,” the same email reads quoting school board policies. “The expenditure of funds shall be under the direction of the superintendent or designee.”

Gonzalez said students will still be participating in the Texas State Scholastic Chess Championships on March 8-11 in Houston.

The email doesn’t address whether Garcia’s predicament will be on the agenda for Monday regular board meeting. In the email, Gonzalez stated the chess teams have not always flown to state and national chess tournaments, but have also traveled by charter bus often over the years.

The motive to cancel the flight is unknown. Conners said the school district won’t be able to recover the money since the flight is non-refundable. Conners said that in actuality, the district would end up spending more because they would be spending about $5,000 to $6,000 to lease charter buses and increase personnel (coaches) costs for the trip.

“He (Carman) can say all he wants, but it doesn’t make sense,” Conners said. “It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

Conners said Garcia has been an after-school program director for many years as well as the district chess coordinator.

“Every year they have certain programs that he’s responsible for making arrangements for the chess club and this year isn’t different than the previous years,” Conners said. “I do not know why somebody, when everything has been already approved and has been consistent with prior practices, would pull the plug on tickets that have been (already) purchased.”

SBCISD Board Secretary M. L. Garcia, Jack Garcia’s aunt and a member of the board of trustees, said she doesn’t know what’s going on.

Garcia is also the only board member who voted against the decision to hire Brighton, the company the district chose as project manager for the $40 million bond issue approved by voters last November.

“I can’t comment because I don’t really know anything right now,” Garcia said. “He (Jack Garcia) doesn’t tell me anything, and I haven’t met with Dr. Carman.”

However, Garcia said she would still vote the same again on choosing Brighton. “I still stand firm against voting for him (Palacios),” Garcia said. “If I were to vote tomorrow again, I would vote not for him.”­­­­­

When asked if she believed Jack’s situation was retaliation for her vote against Brighton, Garcia said she didn’t think that was the case, but chose not to comment on that specific matter.

Conner said the credit card Jack Garcia uses has authorization to make purchases that relate to his duties and activities including chess activities.

“I think it’s a witch hunt,” Conners said. “They are going to lose over $17,000 and they are making it sound like it’s Garcia’s fault. We’re going to make it public to expose the superintendent.”

According to the school district’s website, SBCISD’s After School Program has been in service since 1999. The program is funded by federal, state, and local funds.

The San Benito News will continue to investigate this story and update our readers as new information becomes available.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.sbnewspaper.com/2019/02/22/school-districts-after-school-program-director-put-on-leave-attorney-threatens-to-expose-the-superintendent/

9 comments

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  1. James

    San Benito is nothing less than ONE BIG BARRIO; nothing good will ever come of this cesspool of a town.

  2. S. Zurich

    SBCISD, please remove the principal of Dr. Garza STEAM Academy.

    1. I wondered too...

      They need to replace the whole “team”.. starting from the top to bottom. If San Benito wanted or wants that STEAM academy to succeed they should of replaced the whole “team” with DR. CASH administrative staff and “team”. They have an outstanding leadership and student performance.(look at their history performance for the last few years and the recognitions they have received and accomplishments)… KEEP this suggestion in mind… And make sure that school doesn’t cut corners during STAAR exam days .. to the school board…when you get the STAAR..results you will want to make big changes. For S. Zurich.. that principal is a heartless person she hides behind her minions (brownnosers). Can’t say more..they won’t publish.. but thanks for commenting. I 100%.. agree..

  3. Rosalinda G. Garcia

    The superintendent once again is wasting taxpayer funds like with the Southwest Keys fiasco and other wasteful expenditures.

  4. Rosalinda G. Garcia

    Someone needs to reimburse the district Dr. K. Phillips salary, which covers the 4 months he was lost somewhere and still on payroll.

  5. Sandra Tumberlinson

    Give the supt a break! He just wants to save money wherever possible…. so that the puppets on the school board can give it back to him as yet, ANOTHER RAISE!!!!

    Sandra Tumberlinson, Taxpayer, Voter.

  6. Tax payer

    Why am I not surprised when it comes to money San Benito manages a way to flush it down the toilet. Thanks

  7. Ruben

    Anyone with COMMONSENSE would figure this is in RETALIATION to voting AGAINST the Project Manager.
    Why would the SUPER cancel the ALREADY PAID FOR FLIGHT, and increase expenses by leasing transportation?

  8. Rosalinda G. Garcia

    Good coverage SB News! Keep us posted.

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