A verbal sparring match between Robstown Independent School District trustees erupted last week after one board member accused three others of working with the superintendent to cancel a workshop that would have suggested a use for more than $500,000 in federal grant funds.
Trustee Robert Tapia questioned the cancellation of a workshop, scheduled to take place earlier this month, which was meant to give the district’s administrators and educators a chance to voice their preference for how to use $585,000 awarded to the RISD through the Education Jobs Fund Grant.
District officials said at the Oct. 11 meeting that the workshop was cancelled because trustees had informed Obregon they would not be able to attend due to various circumstances.
However, Tapia said he felt that board members Osvaldo Romero, Adolfo Lopez and Eva Orona were working with Obregon to cancel the workshop in order to avoid giving the district’s staff a chance to speak. He claimed the trio met with Obregon during a conference earlier this month in Austin and agreed to cancel the workshop.
“Certain decisions have already been made, according to Obregon, between board members in Austin, three board members, in fact,” Tapia said.
Orona, Romero and Lopez immediately took issue with Tapia’s claim, with each denying such a meeting took place.
“First of all, you better make sure that you can defend what you’re saying, because you’re accusing three board members of making a decision,” Lopez said. “Have you talked to these three board members and asked them if this happened? Because it offends me when you make accusations, Mr. Tapia.”
Lopez acknowledged the three had attended a conference in Austin with Obregon, but denied meeting about the workshop. He said he was informed by Obregon that Orona and Romero had both mentioned they would not be able to attend the workshop for personal reasons. Lopez said he, in his capacity as board president, recommended the meeting be cancelled.
“When I chat with Mr. Obregon and I feel that it’s in the best interest of the board to cancel a workshop because not everyone can attend, then I will do that,” Lopez said.
After the meeting was over, Romero and Tapia began to argue with one another, with Romero taking exception to Tapia's claims.
"You are so full of (expletive). You're a liar," Romero said.
"Oh, I'm a liar, but you want my support for board president," Tapia said, referencing a move made by Romero earlier this year to seek the leadership position on the board.
"You have all that education, but you don't know how to use any of it," Tapia added before storming out of the administration building.
Obregon, who did not attend the Oct. 11 meeting, confirmed that the trustees and he did not meet in Austin about the workshop, and said Tapia was incorrect in his assertion.
“To my knowledge, they did not meet to discuss this issue,” he said.
Obregon also stated that he has no plans to propose another workshop, as he, not the board, has final discretion on how to spend the $585,000.
Emails sent to Obregon, copies of which were provided to The Nueces County Record Star, showed campus administrators were fully supportive of Obregon’s proposal to hire 10 to 15 additional staff members, including at-risk counselors and math coaches. Some teachers have voiced their preference that the money be given to staff to supplement their salaries.
“As for the thoughts of my staff, they would prefer to have the money distributed amongst all, but I told them Seale and RHS have major needs and we have to support them with these funds,” Lotspeich Elementary School Principal Norma Castaneda wrote.