By J. Noel Espinoza
Special to the NEWS
The San Benito Consolidated Independent School District Board of Trustees decided to revise its policy to reorganize that body in the future after some members tried to oust its president Michael A. Vargas, who was arrested for allegedly driving while intoxicated last month.
The measure, the only item on the school board discussed in open forum, took place during a special board meeting on Thursday. Opponents of the measure believe it was a political maneuver of Vargas and the administration to stop criticism of its leadership and public image.
The board members supporting Vargas and the revisions are Orlando Lopez, Janie Silva, and Victor Eloy Rosas. Sonia Weaver was absent, but in the past, she has also supported Vargas.
Before they voted on the item, board member Angel Mendez, who voted against the revisions along with M. L. Garcia, inquired whether the action was a recommendation of Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nate Carman.
“This is a request from the board president (Vargas) to draft this,” Carman responded.
However, Carman added that they worked in conjunction to outline the measure as requested by Vargas.
The proposed revisions include the selection of officers that states “the board shall elect officers annually at the regular May board meeting, and shall only reorganize at any other time if a board officer resigns from office or is otherwise no longer a trustee.”
In other words, it makes it impossible, unless he resigns, to reorganize the school board even if Vargas is found guilty of a driving-while-intoxicated charge when he was arrested in Harlingen in the early hours of July 5.
With the legalities of the DWI incident looming, Mendez pressed about the rationality behind considering the revision of policies at this moment.
With his character being questioned in the past few weeks, Vargas responded that he was doing it to protect the integrity of the governing process and system.
“For me, when we’ve had attempts to reorganize this board within the last two or three months and with hypothetical to reorganize the board again, that just makes a mockery out of our governing system and our governing process when we attempt to use a tool that most boards only use after elections or after every year…in order to push a personal or political vendetta in order to do whatever you need to do by using this body,” Vargas said.
Vargas claimed the board had already spoken twice, but left out the fact dissident members were not even being allowed to speak during the open board meetings.
In May when the school board was reorganized, Vargas troubles had not yet occurred. Earlier this month, a board member was not allowed to speak or make a statement in open forum by Vargas.
At the Thursday meeting, Vargas took his troubles as a political and a personal vendetta.
“For me, when we walk into this door and we sit in this desk, the politics should be left outside on the street,” Vargas said. “The will of the board has spoken. We’re each elected by community members in this community.”
In response, Mendez said it was ot a political or personal vendetta, but the integrity of the school board that was in play. He added that Vargas did not have to quit the board but his position as president.
“The first thing that our governing board begins to put is a gag in our freedom of speech,” Mendez said. “That’s concerning to me, especially, if you are saying ‘stop creating a mockery of the system’.”
Mendez added, “We create a mockery of the system when we begin to believe that we’re untouchable and nobody can do anything to stop us from doing what we have.”
Mendez said policies are already in place that stipulate certain actions by board members when something happens to them; in the case Vargas’ troubles, for example, that person may or should be removed. Mendez said board members do not have to wait until the courts decide what to do with Vargas’ DWI.
“I think it comes down to dignity, individuality, and knowing where to stand as a person and as a human being,” Mendez said.
Mendez said it is important to show the children and family members that even though one is imperfect, one should aim to be the best role model.
“When I start failing to do that, guess what’s going to happen: I step down on my own,” Mendez said. “I don’t need anyone to tell me because I do have a compass of morality. That’s important. Putting the district before oneself.”