MISSION—Former Sharyland ISD Board Member, Virginia Townsend said it has been 21 years since she has listened in on a Sharyland ISD regular meeting. During the public comments portion of this month’s regular meeting, Townsend told board members she did not like the way discussions were being conducted.
A group of community members came to show support for Townsend and three other citizens participating in the public comments portion of the regular meeting.
Townsend is an active member of the Objective Watchers of the Legal System (OWLS), a non-partisan public watchdog group based in Hidalgo County.
“Everything on the agenda was discussed in the committee meeting, where the people are not here in an open meeting,” Townsend said. “And where there are no minutes taken, except audio. I didn’t think it was democratic to tell you the truth.”
Hearing board members’ opinions and discussion is worth something to the members of the community, according to Townsend. She also told the board members to never make school board positions political.
“That is just something we don’t do; I don’t care if every district in the Valley does it…we don’t,” Townsend said. “To serve on the board is something special because you don’t get paid and you spend a whole lot of your time. You have to only have the kids in mind and nothing else. Not your political future.”
Joseph “Joe” Phillips, the second commenter, spent nine years as a Sharyland ISD board member.
Phillips said he encourages the board to discuss high point items quickly in committee meetings but leave the main discussion for regular meetings. He added having open discussion helped with the matter of transparency.
Ann Marie Priolo, an employee of Sharyland ISD, said she has been teaching with the district for 27 years.
“Most of the veteran staff still here feel little sense of worth for job security,” Priolo said. “I feel like we have been working very hard over the years, but decisions have been made completely disregarding not only myself but other veteran staff here.”
Priolo said she has an issue with math textbooks that have been phased out of the classroom, stipend inequities for UIL participants and the termination of the Bridge program.
The teacher explained the Bridge program assisted students who use alcohol or drugs.
“I want us to do what is right. We either need to bring back the Bridge program or we need to foot the bill for random drug testing at AEP (Alternative Education Program) for every kid that is there,” Priolo said. “We demand it of our extra curricular students…these kid’s lives hang in the balance, they need all of our resources.”
Former Sharyland ISD teacher, Fran Prukop, spent 28 years with the school district. As the fourth person to give comments, she said the district has always treated her well. But, she said, stories from staff members on the current climate within Sharyland ISD worry her.
“It’s with great urgency that I encourage you as a board to settle whatever issues the district is currently facing and restore the community’s confidence in the direction of our district,” Prukop said.
Prukop said trust issues between board members, administration and staff over the last year have kept the district from moving forward.
Later in the meeting, the board discussed and signed the Sharyland ISD Board of Trustees Operating Protocol, which had not been signed since 2011.
Sharyland ISD Board President Noel O. Garza said he had brought the Operating Protocol to the board to remind all members of their duties to the district.
The number one priority on the list reads: place children’s interests first, the board reaffirms our commitment to represent the needs and interests of all the children in our district.
The complete 14-point list of guidelines governing board of trustees protocol can be read by CLICKING HERE.