SBCISD letter warns about campaigning within its premises

Special to the NEWS

School board candidates Ramiro Moreno, Janie Lopez, Anna Llanes, and Jack Garcia pose in front of the SBCISD admin building after drawing their position on the ballot. The photo, posted on social media, received scrutiny from district administration, citing policy violation. (Courtesy photo)

After receiving a letter from the school district informing candidates about campaigning within its grounds, Jack Garcia was not too happy. Garcia posted a picture on social media of him and other candidates (Ramiro Moreno, Janie Lopez, and Anna Llanes) drawing their names on the election ballot while at the central offices on February 24.

Two days later, SBCISD Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Hilda Rendon issued a letter stating that the photographs taken on school grounds and uploaded to social media by some candidates had been brought to her attention.

“This does not comply with San Benito CISD Board Policy GKD (Local)…,” reads part of the letter Garcia received. “Therefore, I’m respectfully recommending the removal of any and all material or photos that were taken on school premises.”

In addition, the letter provides sections of the policy pertaining to campaigning: San Benito CISD campaign-related policy GKD (Local) Pg. 1, Texas Association of School Boards (TABS) resources for board candidates Pg. 5, and Texas Ethics Commission’s use of government resources for political advertising, Pg. 1.

“I think it was a letter intended to try to intimidate those that are running against the incumbents,” said Garcia, former SBICSD After School Program director. “Most of the people who were there took pictures. I was just informing my friends and my family about what had occurred.”

Denying that he was campaigning when the picture was taken, Garcia said it is no different from the past where he has seen city and district candidates taking photos during the drawing.

“If it’s such an issue, it should not have been held at the central office,” Garcia said. “

Anna Llanes, another candidate running for Place 1 on the Board of Trustees, agreed.

Llanes said she was not sure what the reason behind the letter was.

“I think it’s petty,” she said. “It’s either petty jealousy or petty threatening or petty whatever you want to call it.”

SBCISD Public Relations Director Isabel Gonzalez said the letter sent to Jack Garcia was sent to all candidates running for the school board.

“It was sent to share information on the use of government resources for political advertising in response to a concern that photographs taken on school premises had been uploaded to social media by some candidates,” she added.

Board of Trustees President Orlando Lopez said the school district sending this kind of letter is nothing new. He said it was intended for candidates to know what to expect during campaigns, adding that he had seen something similar in his previous election campaigns.

“The message that was being sent out is campaign communication,” Lopez said. “In other words, you can’t be on the school district’s property and campaign (ing) or putting stuff on social media.”

As a current officeholder, Lopez said he has a campaign page where he informs his constituency about his actions as a public servant.

When asked about the photos posted on said page, specifically those of he and Trustee Victor Rosas at the Region III chess tournament in early February, Lopez said he is within his right.

“If you look at my pictures taken as a trustee, not one has re-election on it. The regional chess tournament was just one event I support dearly and am extremely proud of its success! If you have noticed, the title of my current political page is that of a trustee/ current officeholder, not campaigning communication.”

“But, I think, the message that we’re missing here is campaign communication. Like I said, it’s not the first time it has happened before.”

Editor’s note: This article has been edited for length. To read the full story, click here or make sure to grab a copy of the March 6 –12, 2020 issue of the NEWS.

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