In an earlier meeting, the Harlandale Board disagrees with a report from the Texas Education Agency in its recommendation of a state appointed board of managers.
The Texas Education Agency has chosen to replace Harlandale Independent School District trustees with a board of managers and a conservator. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The Harlandale Independent School District this week said it disagrees with a preliminary report from the Texas Education Agency that recommends overhauling the school board and district administration.

TEA in mid-November issued the initial report following a lengthy investigation into claims of improper district governance and contract procurement as well as nepotism.

The state agency recommended downgrading Harlandale ISD’s accreditation, appointing a board of managers to replace the elected board of trustees, and appointing a conservator to supervise district administration.

On Thursday, Harlandale ISD issued a press statement rebutting the agency’s findings and recommendations in a 65-page response. The district slammed TEA’s proposal for a conservator and a board of managers, saying such a recommendation is “inappropriate, grossly excessive and violates basic democratic rights of those elected and those that elect.”

Among other things, HISD officials claimed TEA’s conclusion that purchasing and procurement laws were violated “is incorrect and based upon misapplied legal requirements.”

“All procurement activities reviewed by TEA involved the acquisition of professional engineering services,” the press statement read. “The procurement of professional services is governed by different statutes and rules than those applied by TEA. TEA’s own purchasing manual supports the district’s position. Harlandale ISD was at all times in full compliance with the laws governing the procurement of professional services.”

Harlandale officials said consecutive “superior” ratings in the State’s Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas demonstrates that the school board has been providing sound supervision of the school district’s fiscal affairs.

HISD also disagreed with TEA’s assertion that the school board failed to oversee or give approval on district purchasing activities. “Harlandale ISD has provided TEA numerous meeting minutes which confirm board approval of all purchasing activities discussed in the preliminary report,” the release stated.

District officials said allegations that trustees have interfered with administrative operations are unfounded.

“Harlandale trustees, like those of any other district in Texas, are obligated by law to provide broad oversight of district affairs,” the release read. “Trustee requests for information are not violations of law.”

Harlandale officials also said there’s no evidence to support complaints that board discussions about repairs at Gillette Elementary School created disharmony among trustees. District officials added the complaints here “stem from TEA’s failure to study or understand the underlying engineering issues and repairs.”

Additionally, Harlandale officials said the preliminary report did not substantiate charges of nepotism or illegal hiring.

HISD officials went on to make a counter-claim that TEA’s investigation into district governance that began in August 2017 exceeded the agency’s authority. “These include initiating and expanding its investigations without proof of commissioner approval,” the release stated.

Exhibits and files backing up Harlandale ISD’s response to TEA’s preliminary report are available here.

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.