North East Independent School District trustee Joseph Treviño has missed seven of the last nine board meetings since his fellow board members voted in May to ban him from attending district events and visiting campuses.
One of the two meetings he has attended was on July 29, for an appeal of his ban. Six trustees of the seven-member board voted to stand by their previous decision to censure him for what some members of the board described as violating district policies and seeking special treatment as a trustee. Treviño is exploring options for further appeals, he said last week.
During the meetings he missed, trustees approved a budget of $570 million with pay raises for district staff, consulted with attorneys on litigation, and voted to hire campus and district administrators.
Treviño said a medical condition kept him from attending meetings but he plans to resume participating. The next board meeting is scheduled for Aug. 26.
“It also would have been kind of hard to go sit with people in a room, two feet from somebody when they say the things they said to each other about me,” Treviño told the Rivard Report last week. “You have got to look at it for me, six of them and one of me. I look at it that way. I’m always by myself.”
Such a string of absences is uncommon and can be detrimental for a trustee looking to represent his district effectively, district observers said.
Treviño was first appointed to represent District 3, which covers the southwest corner of North East ISD and includes LEE High School, in October 2017. He later ran unopposed for a four-year term in May 2018.
NEISD board President Shannon Grona said she wants Treviño to attend meetings and that it is an obligation for him to do so as an elected trustee.
However, she added, she has no way to compel Treviño to show up.
“All that we can do is encourage him to come to board meetings, but … we don’t have any recourse if he doesn’t come to a meeting,” Grona said. “You know, that’s up to voters three years from now.”
As long as the meetings operate with a quorum, or four board members, Grona said district business will continue as usual. While each board member represents a designated area of NEISD, all trustees are responsible for serving the entire district, she said.
Tom Cummins, the executive director of North East ISD’s American Federation of Teachers who regularly attends board meetings, said he has watched an estimated 2,000 board meetings in his career but has never seen a trustee miss so many meetings in a row.
The AFT leader noted the importance of Treviño and his fellow trustees “coming together” to repair the relationship.
“Board members will have an [empty seat] unless Mr. Treviño decides to resign, so it is in their best interest to try and make Mr. Treviño understand what their concerns are and listen what he has to say also,” Cummins said.
Treviño said last week he will not resign. Describing the board as having “no unity,” the District 3 trustee hopes that his relationship with other board members improves. He plans to attend future board meetings, but concedes he will “have to deal with the attention” and with being uncomfortable.
Treviño was appointed to fill the seat held by Sandi Wolff, who resigned when she moved out of her district’s boundaries. She later served on the Historic and Design Review Commission, but stepped down when she realized the extent of the time commitment required. She began looking for a replacement before she missed multiple meetings, she said.
It’s detrimental for any elected official to miss meetings, Wolff said, comparing it to missing a day of school or a class.
“[As a trustee,] you volunteer to serve on a school board to be the voice of the community and if you’re not in attendance, then your voice can’t be heard and the voice of your constituents can’t be heard,” she said.