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This article originally appeared in the Friday June 14, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.
The Valley View Independent School District approved a $150,000 settlement with Hidalgo Mayor Sergio Coronado and his sister, school board Trustee Claudia Coronado, last month.
Sergio Coronado and Claudia Coronado — who both worked for the school district — had accused Superintendent Rolando Ramirez and the school board of engaging in a conspiracy against them after the November 2016 election.
After the winning candidates took control of the board, the superintendent demoted Sergio Coronado from assistant superintendent to “assessment director” and slashed his salary. The superintendent also bumped Claudia Coronado from principal to assistant principal.
Sergio Coronado and Claudia Coronado filed a federal lawsuit in April 2018, claiming the school district had retaliated against them for political reasons. Trustees approved a settlement agreement last month but didn’t admit any wrongdoing.
“My clients felt like they were entitled to more and the district would have liked to have paid less,” said attorney Gus Acevedo, who represented Sergio Coronado and Claudia Coronado. “To me, that’s the nature of a good settlement: That neither side is 100% happy.”
Attorney Frank Prado, who represents Valley View, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Trouble between the Coronados and the Valley View school district started in 2016, when Claudia Coronado’s husband campaigned for school board.
Her husband, Abram Ramirez, ran against candidates backed by a majority of the board.
Abram Ramirez lost the race to Ricardo “Ricky” Cortez Jr., who campaigned with a slate of candidates who called themselves “United Together.” The “United Together” candidates won every seat on the ballot, cementing a majority on the school board.
After the election, the board started retaliating against employees who supported the opposing candidates, according to the lawsuit. They also rewarded supporters with jobs and higher pay.
“They set about on a campaign to reward those employees who were related to the new board majority and those who had openly supported their faction,” according to an affidavit signed by Claudia Coronado. “After the election, three principals were reassigned to new positions. I was the only principal to be demoted.”
When she filed a formal grievance, the superintendent said student performance, not politics, had prompted the decision.
“I find that Mrs. Coronado has not presented any evidence to demonstrate that my decision to remove her as principal at the Junior High campus, to reassign her as Assistant Principal at an elementary campus, or not to recommend her for either of the two elementary principal positions, was motivated by her political activities or expressions,” according to a memo dated Sept. 1, 2017, which Claudia Coronado submitted as part of the lawsuit.
The superintendent also demoted Sergio Coronado. He became the “assessment director,” a job with few actual duties.
“In his new position, Mr. Coronado’s responsibilities have been reduced to merely the completion of reports and making copies,” according to the lawsuit.
Faced with a hostile work environment, both Sergio Coronado and Claudia Coronado found new jobs.
Sergio Coronado became interim superintendent for the Progreso school district. He also mounted a successful campaign for mayor of Hidalgo in May 2018, taking the city’s top job.
Claudia Coronado accepted a position with the Region 1 Education Service Center. While she found a new career, Claudia Coronado didn’t leave Valley View for long. She now serves on the school board.