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La Joya ISD board OKs superintendent contract

La Joya ISD trustees approved a contract with Heriberto “Beto” Gonzalez Wednesday evening, officially making him the permanent superintendent of the district.

Gonzalez joined the district as interim in April after the hasty departure of Gisela Saenz.

The board named him the lone finalist for superintendent last month.

“I know that it’s not easy coming into the situation that we’re faced with. You’ve taken a challenge that not anybody would have taken,” Board President Alex Cantu said Wednesday. “You didn’t shy away from it; you weren’t afraid of it. We’re here to serve the community — most importantly our kids — and as our leader we place all our faith, all our support, on you.”

Heriberto “Beto” Gonzalez. Photo courtesy of La Joya ISD

Gonzalez said he couldn’t comment on the terms of that contract Wednesday evening because he hadn’t seen the final draft of it.
“I just shared with the board that I trust that they know the needs of the district, and that their vote of confidence would be embraced with hard work, dedication and a strict focus on student needs,” he said.

Two sources with knowledge of the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity described it as a one-year contract with a salary of $325,000, along with a six-month severance package in the event of a Texas Education Agency takeover.

The TEA may intervene at La Joya ISD as soon as October and install a board of managers following an investigation conducted by the state in the wake of significant corruption in the district.

The district hopes to avoid intervention, contending that it can — and should — be run locally.

If the TEA does intervene, the state would have the option to replace Gonzalez. It’s already accepting applications for that possible position.

Gonzalez, who could apply through that process, says he hasn’t done so.

He described La Joya ISD as going through a “unique” time in its history, reiterating the majority of trustees’ opinion that the district should be managed locally and characterizing the potential takeover and the drama that’s surrounded it as a regrettable distraction from the district’s core mission.

“I think if there’s anything that we learned in all this, it’s that when adults make mistakes, ultimately that’s an issue that can perturb an institution and a school district,” he said. “But the real treasure here, the real jewels — the real diamonds — are our children and our teachers.”

The district has, during its effort to avoid intervention, beat the drum of successful reform in publicity.

It emphasized a variety of training and partnerships aimed at supporting student success and data-driven accountability.

Gonzalez says that those aren’t just talking points. He described district leadership as being focused on the long-term success of its students.

“Are we preparing them to be champions and gainful employees in our community? Will they contribute to a greater economy? Will they continue to sustain and procure our moral compass and our values?” he said. “That is the philosophy of this board. We’re going to procure that, and make sure that our children come first.”

Trustee Roberto Zamora cast the sole vote against approving the contract.

Last month, Zamora and a minority of trustees on the board criticized the superintendent search that resulted in Gonzalez being selected and expressed concern over naming a superintendent so soon before potential intervention.

Those concerns resulted in a commitment by the district to approve a contract that limited damages to the La Joya ISD regarding a potential buyout if TEA takes over.

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