In a decisive move, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has taken control of La Joya Independent School District (ISD), ousting the democratically-elected school board and instating a new superintendent. The intervention comes in the wake of an investigation into the previous leadership, revealing allegations of fraud and conflicts of interest, as announced by the TEA on Thursday.
The TEA has appointed seven Hidalgo County residents to replace the former school board, forming a temporary “board of managers” to oversee La Joya ISD, which serves approximately 24,000 students in the Rio Grande Valley. Alongside this change, Marcey Sorensen assumes the role of the new superintendent, a decision made by the TEA to ensure effective and accountable leadership for the district.
Immediate Oversight: TEA Steps In Amidst Financial Scandal in La Joya ISD
The transition to the new board is immediate, and the duration of its tenure will be determined by the TEA commissioner. The catalyst for this intervention was a TEA investigation conducted last year, uncovering financial irregularities within the school board’s actions. Specifically, the board had authorized a $38 million expenditure on installing LED lights across school campuses. However, further scrutiny revealed that the contract for these lights was entangled in a criminal conspiracy, involving substantial bribes and kickbacks.
Several individuals, including trustees and administrators, pleaded guilty to federal charges related to these activities, spanning offenses such as theft, bribery, money laundering, extortion, and wire fraud.
La Joya ISD has yet to respond to requests for comment on the TEA’s intervention.
This intervention aligns with a 2021 Texas law empowering the TEA to assume control of a school district facing academic failure, power abuse, or financial mismanagement. Typically lasting between two to six years, such takeovers are intended to rectify issues and restore stability. La Joya ISD is the second school district to undergo state intervention in the past year, with the TEA previously appointing a new school board and superintendent for the Houston Independent School District on June 1.
The TEA’s decisive action reflects its commitment to upholding educational standards and fiscal integrity within Texas school districts, ensuring that students receive quality education in an environment free from corruption and mismanagement.