The Tuloso-Midway ISD school board voted on Tuesday to allow board chair Paul Mostella to select candidates for the interim superintendent.
Superintendent Rick Fernandez was placed on administrative leave with pay on July 15. The reason has not been made public.
Fernandez’s leave follows an announcement that the Texas Education Agency is investigating the school board over allegations that an administrator tampered with grades.
More than 70 parents, students and school district staff attended the meeting to express their concerns and dismay.
Second-grade teacher Mary Ann Garza has been teaching at Tuloso-Midway Elementary School for 15 years. She said that since she got there the district has known several superintendents.
“I was excited when the district hired (Fernandez),” Garza said. “Someone who was not from our community, someone who had no prejudice against anyone in the district, someone new and fresh. I know a lot of them, like myself, were surprised when allegations were made about things going on in high school. “
Fernandez was hired on September 17, 2020 to be the district superintendent.
“He hasn’t been here for a year and is already on paid administrative leave,” Garza told the board. “To be honest, I don’t know why and the people I’ve spoken to don’t. I hope you reconsider releasing him from his contract and let him continue doing what he was hired to do.”
Melinda Gomez-Arriaga, TMISD Education Foundation board member, said she respects all of the staff who work for the district, but is fed up with Tuloso-Midway ISD either the topic of discussion in a negative way.
“Not about the incredible work our speech and debate students did, not the quality of our softball and baseball team last season, or the new weight room equipment that was recently installed; instead, it was the behavior of our school board, ”said Gomez-Arriaga. “‘Scandal and retaliation’ about our beloved school district like coming out of a soap opera.”
Gomez-Arriaga said she spoke to several primary, middle, middle and high school teachers in Tuloso-Midway to find out if they heard anything from the board about Fernandez’s leave. or survey. She said no one had been warned.
UNJUST GPA RANKS
Jennifer Xac, a 2021 graduate and Salvatorian, said she deserved to be a valedictorian on Rylee King last year. Xac said that with recent revelations she wanted to make sure the administration changes for the better so it doesn’t affect prospective students.
Xac read a statement she wrote to Fernandez a week before the 2020-2021 Tuloso-Midway graduation ceremony explaining how she felt cheated into being ranked number one in her class.
She said it was unfair that King was able to take an out-of-district physical education class for his entire high school career. The credit allowed King to count only seven courses in his GPA rather than the regular eight courses.
Being a varsity athlete with her high school golf team, Xac said she was upset with her representation at regional tournaments and state tournaments did not count as a PE credit.
“There are major inequalities given that last year’s promotion major was the only one who knew how to do this since her freshman year and no one else knew,” Xac said. “To my knowledge, I don’t know of anyone else who took this credit. They got it in PE class, in other sports or in a group.”
During her college years, Xac declared that she was number one in her class and continued that reign during her first semester of freshman year. When the students received their sophomore year of GPA, she found out she was number two and never found out who was number one until the week before graduation.
“I entered my senior year fighting for that top spot just by keeping my grades up, but I didn’t know I could ever catch up with it just because of the inequalities in the ranking system,” said Xac. “I fought for my grades as fairly as possible because I had no connection with the school in any way.
“I want to make sure that this situation is resolved and that a solution can come out of it because I won’t be the loser of a game that I had no idea was going on.”
Xac said she would be happy to be number two if everyone got a fair count of their surrogates, but not for someone who “rocked the system.”
School officials told Xac that nothing could be done about his situation. After graduation, she heard that there was a recalculation of GPA.
Xac said King’s GPA was lower than that of the fourth-highest-ranked student.
When asked about the grade recalculations, school officials said they were unable to comment at the time due to the TEA investigation.
Board members met behind closed doors to discuss jobs, employee concerns and the possibility of hiring an interim superintendent.
Jan Mostella, board member and wife of board chairman Mostella, asked him to bring together potential candidates for the post. All board members except Ben Benavides and John Samaniego voted for approval.
Benavides then demanded that Fernandez be brought back immediately. Samaniego seconded and Vice President Felix Landin Jr. also voted for approval. The remaining four directors voted against his reinstatement.
With the investigation ongoing, Benavides said he was unable to speak to the situation but wanted Fernandez to return to Tuloso-Midway ISD.
“I think it’s good for the district and our kids,” Benavides said. “He’s doing a lot of good things for Tuloso-Midway and I want to see him again as soon as possible. We will continue this fight for him.”
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John Oliva covers education and community news in South Texas. Consider supporting local journalism with a Caller-Times subscription.