Editor's Note: Last week's issue included a column that was critical of RISD Board Secretary Osvaldo Romero and other trustees for a recent decision to extend term limits. The following is a response submitted by Mr. Romero.
In February of 2008, with little public notice, the then-Robstown ISD Board of Trustees, voted to change school trustee elections from May 2008 to November 2008. In so doing, they "illegally" extended the terms of two trustees up for re-election - forcing the district to conduct two school board elections within six months of each other (November 2008 and May 2009). The election framework adopted by this former board caused voter confusion and wasted taxpayer money and was doomed to be repeated, unless corrected by the current school board. Note, I use the term "illegal" when referencing the aforementioned board because, as required by law, they failed to adopt a resolution stating their intent; and without remorse, did not seek pre-clearance from the U. S. Department of Justice.
When warned by Mr. Roberto Tapia that their actions were not in compliance with the law, they simply brushed him off like a pesky fly.
With regard to our proposal changing trustee elections to coincide with Nueces County elections, the reasons go beyond saving money or stopping voter confusion.
Increasing voter participation in the electoral process is a better incentive but, truthfully, at the heart of this issue is repositioning our district's election framework to comply with the law. The Texas Education Code, Section 11.059 (c) allows a majority of school trustees to be elected at one time. This means that rather than the annual 2-2-3 election cycle under which previous boards operated, the current board approved a bi-annual, 4-3, election cycle.
As per our Election Calendar and Place System, the first opportunity to elect a majority (Places 1, 2, 3, and 4) is November, 2012. This process takes full advantage of the law and complies with every legal requirement (adoption of a resolution and DOJ pre-clearance).
In truth, there are other important matters taking precious time and energy from school trustees.
While disagreeing on some topics, the current board has been solid in moving forward with the completion of two new elementary schools (Lotspeich and San Pedro). Next year, students will benefit from three newly constructed, state-of-the-art, college-level science labs at the high school. On the financial front, recent action by the board will save taxpayers over $1 million in interest payments by refinancing Unlimited Tax School Building Bonds. The board is also working hard to secure Instructional Facilities Allotment (IFA) funding which, if approved by voters, will allow Robstown ISD to build a new $12.4 million "super elementary" school, yet paying only one-third of the cost.
In terms of curriculum and instruction, this board has been unanimous in providing our teachers the tools they need to move Robstown ISD from an inherited "Unacceptable" rating to "Academically Acceptable."
Every school trustee, regardless of their political affiliation, answered a call to serve our children and community. I respect that and understand that each of us perform this service differently.
Very soon, Board President Roberto Tapia will appoint a "Committee on Academic Excellence" comprised of RHS alums who have distinguished themselves in the field of education. Among them will be Ph.D.s, Ed. Ds and academic scholars who will work hand in hand at improving academic opportunities for our students. More specifically, we want to identify ways area colleges/industry can work with us to give our students a true "equal life chance."
No longer will mediocrity be the standard by which we are judged at RISD, but rather, EXCELLENCE is at the core of what we will become. This is not a task that can be achieved by one person alone. It requires the commitment of an entire community. As the president has famously said, and I fervently believe, "Yes We Can" and RISD is going to show the world, "We Will!"
Osvaldo Romero is the Board Secretary for the Robstown Independent School District.