The La Joya Independent School District invited former Superintendent Roberto Zamora back to the boardroom on Tuesday.
During a meeting on Tuesday afternoon, the school board voted 5-0 to appoint Roberto R. Zamora, 76, of rural Palmview to Place 5.
“He’s well respected by the community. He’s a mentor of mentors. He’s served at all levels — districtwide, regionwide, statewide,” said Trustee Espie Ochoa. “I think he would be a great guide and coach to all of us as we work together.”
Place 5 became vacant in January, when Trustee Armin Garza resigned after pleading guilty in a public corruption case.
Trustees picked Zamora for the position after reviewing 11 resumes.
Other applicants included former school board Trustee Isaac V. Sulemana, a local attorney; former Palmview City Councilman Anthony Uresti, who ran for Place 5 in November 2020; and J.J. Luna, a former organizer with the American Federation of Teachers.
“We were looking at all these resumes,” said Trustee Alex Cantu. “And his stood out.”
Zamora is well-known at La Joya ISD, where he served as superintendent from 1987 to 1992, 1997 to 2001 and 2001 to 2003.
During his five-decade career in education, Zamora also worked for the Texas Education Agency and served as the executive director of the Region One Education Service Center. He currently teaches graduate-level courses in educational leadership at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
“I’ve given it a lot of consideration,” said Zamora, who served on the La Joya school board from 1970 to 1971. “And a lot of thought.”
La Joya ISD is attempting to recover from a corruption scandal that resulted in the resignation of two school board trustees and two administrators, including a former assistant superintendent. They confessed to accepting bribes, soliciting kickbacks and improperly influencing elected officials employed by La Joya ISD.
Concerned about the allegations, the Texas Education Agency informed La Joya ISD the state would conduct a “special investigation.”
Zamora said La Joya ISD shouldn’t let the actions of a few people define the district, which is already taking corrective action.
“I believe I can bring history to what’s happened and where we’ve been as a district,” Zamora said. “We have overcome, as a district, some bumps on the road and we will overcome this one too.”
Trustees need to hold themselves accountable, Zamora said, and put La Joya ISD on a path to success.
“We just have to step up to the plate,” Zamora said. “And say: ‘No more of that.’”
The school board also needs to appoint someone to Place 6, which became vacant in March, when Trustee Oscar “Coach” Salinas pleaded guilty to a federal extortion charge.
Board President Alda T. Benavides said that she didn’t want trustees to feel rushed or pressured to make a decision. They plan to keep reviewing the remaining 10 resumes and could make a decision on Place 6 after the summer break.