Mission CISD Board of Trustees reimbursed more for travel despite decreased travel budget

On Sept. 12, 2019, a memorandum was sent to Mission CISD principals instructing directors to reduce unnecessary travel expenses.

The memo, from Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Sharon Roberts (through Superintendent of Schools Dr. Carol G. Perez), let principals know that in lieu of sending staff to a Texas Assessment Conference in Austin, they should encourage administrators and assessment strategists (IAS) to instead attend an Annual Assessment Training at Region One, located in Edinburg.

Roberts noted that the Mission Consolidated Independent School District would still have representation at the state conference through the Testing and Assessment Department. The decision to send administrators to a local conference rather than one at the state capital was made “in an effort to reduce unnecessary travel expenses and decrease the amount of time administrators and staff are off campus.”

This memo was sent to principals despite some members of the MCISD Board of Trustees increasingly attending interstate conferences to obtain their Continuing Education hours over the last five years.

The Progress Times obtained travel records, reimbursement documents and itineraries from Mission CISD that detail the trips and conferences attended by board members from the 2015-2016 school year through the 2019-2020 school year. Reimbursements include mileage and/or plane tickets, hotel/lodging, meals and convention fees.

While the documents reveal that annual budgets for Board of Trustee spending decreased (from $142,000 for 2015-2016 to $100,000 every year since), they also show certain board members have seen increased reimbursements for their travel expenses.

2015-2016

Four trips were taken by members of the board of trustees during the 2015-2016 school year. In total, $17,681.12 was reimbursed.

The first trip, taken in Oct. 2015, was to the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA)/Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) Convention in Austin. Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez, Minne Rodgers and Betty Mendoza attended this trip. All together, they were reimbursed $5,280.16.

The second trip, taken in Feb. 2016, was to the TASB 19th Winter Governance & Legal Seminar in Corpus Christi. Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez, Petra Ramirez, Minnie Rodgers, Betty Mendoza and J.C. Avila attended this trip, and reimbursed a total of $4,961.32.

The third trip, taken in May 2016, was to the Region One School Board Spring Conference at South Padre Island. Dr. Sonia Treviño, Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez, Minnie Rodgers, Charlie Garcia III and Petra Ramirez attended this trip, and were reimbursed a total of $1,859.62.

The fourth trip, taken in June 2016, was to the TASB Summer Leadership conference in San Antonio. Roy Vela, Dr. Sonia Treviño, Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez, Charlie Garcia III and Jerry Zamora attended, and were all together reimbursed $5,580.02.

2016-2017

The following school year, board members took seven trips. A total of $40,396.08 was reimbursed.

The first trip in Oct. 2016 was to the 13th Annual Association of Latino Administrators Education Summit in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez, Dr. Sonia Treviño, Minnie Rodgers and Charlie Garcia III attended this trip, and were all-together reimbursed $10,715.

In Feb. 2017, trustees travelled to the TASA/TASB Legislative Conference in Austin. Roy Vela, Charlie Garcia III, Jerry Zamora, Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez and Dr. Sonia Treviño attended, and reimbursed $2,023.86 in total.

In March 2017, board members attended the TASB Winter Government & Legal Seminar Corporation training in Corpus Christi. Petra Ramirez, Dr. Sonia Treviño, Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez and Minnie Rodgers attended, and were reimbursed a total of $4,162.57.

Later that month, several board members went to Denver, Colorado for the National School Boards Association (NSBA) Annual Conference. Roy Vela, Minnie Rodgers, Charlie Garcia III, Jerry Zamora, Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez and Dr. Sonia Treviño attended, and reimbursed a total of $14,472.79. O’Caña-Olivarez was unable to attend this trip, but was reimbursed $380.97 for “future travel” expenses.

Jerry Zamora was the only board member to attend the Destination Imagination Tournament in Lubbock in April 2017, and was reimbursed $1,546.70.

In May 2017, Roy Vela, Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez, Charlie Garcia III and Jerry Zamora attended the Region One School Board Spring Conference at South Padre Island. In total, they were reimbursed $1,680.36.

The TASB Summer Leadership Institute in San Antonio was held in June 2017. Dr. Sonia Treviño, Charlie Garcia III, Roy Vela and Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez were reimbursed a total of $5,794.80 for this trip.

2017-2018

In 2017-2018, five trips were taken by members of the Board of Trustees. A total of $34,332.54 was reimbursed.

In Sept. 2017, Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez attended the TASB Nominations Committee Interview in Austin. At the time, she was a candidate to be a director for the Texas Association of School Boards Board of Directors – which she still serves as until her term is over in November. For this trip, she was reimbursed $554.32.

In Oct. 2017, five board members (Charlie Garcia III, Jerry Zamora, Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez, Dr. Sonia Treviño and Roy Vela) attended the TASA/TASB Legislative Convention in Dallas. In total, they were reimbursed $9,782.45.

A NSBA Conference was held in San Antonio in April 2018. Charlie Garcia III, Jerry Zamora, Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez and Dr. Sonia Treviño attended, and reimbursed a total of $8,768.60.

The Region One Spring Conference was held at South Padre Island in May 2018. Betty Mendoza, Petra Ramirez, Charlie Garcia III, Minnie Rodgers, Jerry Zamora, Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez and Dr. Sonia Treviño were reimbursed a total of $3,099.25.

The next month (June 2018), board members Petra Ramirez, Charlie Garcia III, Minnie Rodgers, Jerry Zamora, Betty Mendoza, Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez and Dr. Sonia Treviño attended the TASB Summer Leadership Conference in San Antonio. In total, they were reimbursed $12,127.92.

A list with individualized reimbursements for this year can be found with this article.

2018-2019

Seven trips were taken during this academic school year, with board reimbursements totaling at $46,382.85.

In Sept. 2018 Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez attended a TASB Board of Directors meeting in Austin. She was reimbursed $560.93 for this trip.

Later that same month, O’Caña-Olivarez attended another TASB Board of Directors meeting in San Antonio. She was reimbursed $508.41.

Several other board members joined her for the TASA/TASB Convention in Austin held on the same day as her meeting in San Antonio. Charlie Garcia III, Minnie Rodgers, Jerry Zamora, Petra Ramirez, Betty Mendoza, Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez and Dr. Sonia Treviño were reimbursed a total of $12,238.57 for this trip.

In Feb. 2019, the TASA/TASB Legislative Conference was held in Austin. Charlie Garcia III, Minnie Rodgers, Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez and Dr. Sonia Treviño attended, and reimbursed a total of $4,806.72.

March 2019 saw the NSBA Annual Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Charlie Garcia III, Minnie Rodgers, Jerry Zamora, Dr. Sonia Treviño and Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez attended this trip, and were reimbursed $15,815.82 in total.

In May 2019 trustees attended the Region One Spring Conference at South Padre Island. Board members Minnie Rodgers, Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez and Dr. Sonia Treviño were reimbursed a total of $1,412.04.

In June 2019, Charlie Garcia III, Minnie Rodgers, Jerry Zamora, Betty Mendoza, Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez and Dr. Sonia Treviño attended the TASB Summer Leadership Institute in San Antonio. In total, they were reimbursed $11,040.36.

2019-2020

Two trips were taken during this academic school year, with board reimbursements totalling at $10,467.28. Trips scheduled for the Spring of 2020 were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, which shut down most major events across the country. 

In Sept. 2019, Charlie Garcia III, Minnie Rodgers, Betty Mendoza, Dr. Sonia Treviño, Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez and Jerry Zamora attended the TASA/TASB Convention in Dallas. In total, they were reimbursed $10,044.93.

In Nov. 2019, Petra Ramirez attended the TASB Legal Seminar at South Padre Island. She was reimbursed $422.35.

Continuing Education Hours

The Texas Education Agency requires newly-elected board members to complete at least 16 Continuing Education hours annually, while experienced board members are required to complete at least eight.

In records obtained from the district, TASB breaks down Continuing Education hours into three tiers: Tier 1 is Orientation, Tier 2 is Team Building and Tier 3 is Board Development. Tier 4 hours are not recorded, and are classified under Senate Bill 1566.

Since 2016 Charlie Garcia III has earned three Tier 1 hours, 13 Tier 2 hours and 72.5 Tier 3 hours. Veronica “Betty” Mendoza first served from 2015-2016 and then was re-elected in 2018. She has earned seven hours in Tier 2 and 39.75 hours in Tier 3 during her years as a trustee.

Since 2016 Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez has earned one Tier 1 hour, 13 Tier 2 hours and 87.25 Tier 3 hours during her years as a trustee. Petra Ramirez, also since 2016, has earned 13 Tier 2 hours and 47.25 Tier 3 hours.

Since 2016 Minnie Rodgers has earned 13 Tier 2 hours and 60.24 Tier 3 hours. Starting in 2016, Dr. Sonia Treviño earned three Tier 1 hours, 13 Tier 2 hours and 88.49 Tier 3 hours. Since 2016 Jerry Zamora has earned three Tier 1 hours, 13 Tier 2 hours and 68.5 Tier 3 hours.

The board presents their CE hours annually at a regular called board meeting as a requirement. All trustees at MCISD have met or exceeded required Continuing Education hours – board member Petra Ramirez, for example, managed to fulfill her annual credits while keeping her trips within Texas and annual reimbursements never exceeding $3,000.

Student and Employee Travel Budgets

The combined travel budgets for students and employees were largely consistent from 2017 to 2020. In 2017 it was $2,566,414.42, in 2018 it was $2,774,450.05, in 2019 it was $2,868,306.34 and in 2020 it was $2,268,825.63.

Budgets included travel expenses for instructional events, instructional staff development, instructional leadership trips, school leadership trips and extracurricular activities.

It should be noted that MCISD has managed to not raise property taxes for the last two years, while simultaneously offering pay raises and incentive packages to teachers, faculty and staff.

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