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La Vernia ISD to seek new superintendent

La Vernia ISD to seek new superintendent
NANNETTE KILBEY-SMITH "” "I question your motives." Former school board president Dr. Cody Miller addresses the current La Vernia ISD board of trustees, who voted Nov. 9 for the resignation of Superintendent Jos Moreno.

The La Vernia Independent School District board of trustees will begin its search for a new superintendent soon.

During a special called meeting Nov. 9, the school board voted 4-3 to accept the resignation of Superintendent Jos Moreno, and in a separate action, to appoint the district’s Human Resources Director Shannon Burns as acting administrator in charge of the school district. Moreno has led the district since 2014.

Their decision followed a three-hour closed-door session, during which dozens of community members waited in a cramped meeting room in the 500 building of La Vernia High School to have their say during a public hearing scheduled during the meeting. Most of the standing-room-only crowd waited, despite the hours ticking by, for their turn to speak Thursday night.

Jimmy McFadin, a parent, taxpayer, and spouse of a district employee, urged transparency from school board President Cynthia Buerkle and members Drew Herley, James Barnett, Ryan Doege, Clint Askins, Dr. David Cribb, and Janice Gimbel.

“Many are calling your character and ethics into question,” McFadin said, extolling Moreno’s “high unwavering integrity, his devotion to our kids.”

“We implore you not to take this decision,” he said, saying it would be “to the detriment of our youth.”

Also calling for transparency about the decision was fourth-grade teacher Erin Barrett, who said she believes the superintendent had nothing but the interests of the district’s students at heart.

“We just ask why? Why are you doing this?” Barrett asked.

Gayle Cox echoed her questions.

“What is it I do not know?” she asked the trustees. Cox outlined the costs involved -- Moreno’s salary and benefits through the end of January, $89,282 to end his contract, and the money to search for a replacement and pay an interim leader, when Moreno’s contract would end in June 2018. “Why is this important to take this amount of money for this amount of time and create this much instability?”

La Vernia Mayor Robert Gregory made an unprecedented appearance before the board.

“I was hoping there would be a positive resolution,” he said. “I’m sensing there is not.”

Gregory, whose comments were greeted with resounding applause, said Moreno has represented the school district and community “with class and integrity,” and has brought many positives to the school district.

Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jay Hennette, a district parent and current La Vernia City Council member, told the trustees he’d spoken with many in the school district, from employees to students and fellow parents and taxpayers about Moreno and the board’s proposed action.

“Not one person had anything negative to say [about Moreno],” Hennette said.

He was scathing of the trustees regarding the time they had to endure waiting on the closed-door session to end.

“You insulted these people by making them wait three hours,” Hennette said.

He encouraged a show of hands of those supporting the board’s proposed acceptance of Moreno’s resignation. Three hands went up. Hennette then invited a show of hands in support of Moreno. Almost as one, the audience members rose to their feet in a show of unity.

In total, nine community members addressed the board, all urging the trustees to retain Moreno as superintendent, or to provide good grounds for the proposed resignation.

Following the public hearing, Buerkle invited a vote on the proposed resignation agreement reached between the district and Moreno.

Barnett told his fellow trustees, “There is still time to do the right thing.”

Askins, Buerkle, Doege, and Herley -- all voted onto the board last May -- voted to accept the proposal. Barnett, Cribb, and Gimbel opposed.

The board did not provide any reason for the decision.

The same vote split the appointment of Burns as interim administrator.

Shouts of “Shame on you!” followed the vote to adjourn.

Joint statement

The La Vernia ISD school board trustees, in a joint statement released Nov. 10, expressed their “-- sincere appreciation to Dr. Moreno for his efforts and leadership while serving as Superintendent of this great school district and its wonderful students, parents and administrators.”

Among the achievements under Dr. Jos Moreno’s leadership since 2014, according to the statement, are:

• Superior ratings on the FIRST Financial Report (2014-16)

• Decreased debt by $6.8 million through bond refunding practices (2014-16)

• Improved graduation rate average to 98 percent and above

• Attained TEA “Met Standard” district p with higher than region and state averages

• Increased Advanced Placement (AP) participation by 31 percent, and increased the number of AP Exams taken by 75 percent

• Improved participation and performance on SAT/ACT with higher than region and state averages

• Improved UIL Lone Star Cup standing from 43rd to 13th Place (2016-17)

• Implemented the first dual-language program in the history of the district.

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