Board Vice-President Brandon Greenwood didn’t mince words during Monday’s regular meeting of the Kingsville Independent School District’s Board of Trustees as he spoke against appointing the wife of fellow trustee Nicholas Prado as the Pogue Center Administrator.
“I cannot vote in good faith on an issue that is covered with a veil of nepotism and undue influence by a board member involving a spouse,” Greenwood said prior to the vote.
The KISD opened the Pogue Center – later renamed Pogue Options Academy – in 2013 to serve as a Disciplinary Alternative Education Program, or DAEP, campus. The campus was merged with H.M. King High School’s Credit Attendance Recovery Education (CARE) Academy in 2018 before reopening this year.
During Monday’s meeting, KISD Superintendent Elida Bera recommended hiring Kleberg Elementary School Assistant Principal Norma Prado as the Pogue Center Administrator.
Before they could vote on Bera’s recommendation, trustee Steven Crites informed the board that he wanted to make a statement. Crites said there has been “an unusual degree of interest involving this position.”
“I believe that this is particularly good, and that whoever fills this position will be assuming responsibilities with little reward, numerous challenges and a job that I would describe as being a pain in the butt,” he said.
Crites said he had heard rumors around Kingsville that “there’s a significant degree of nepotism involved in the nomination, and ultimately the selection, of the person that will assume these duties.”
He said while the superintendent’s recommendation of Norma Prado was “unusual,” it did not meet the legal conditions for nepotism.
“And if it did, (KISD legal counsel Nick) Maddox would have certainly advised us as such,” Crites said. “I have a unique perspective on this matter as I was an instructor at H.M. King when Mrs. Prado was an A.P. She was a very good A.P. who knew her job and handled any issue that I brought to her.”
Crites said Norma Prado has “paid her dues in this district” and is “professionally competent, a stickler most notable for the rules and overall a disciplinarian.”
“Which I believe is her finest professional qualities and absolutely the specific attributes we need for an effective DAEP,” he said. “The fact that she is married to Nick Prado has no bearing on my vote.”
Crites said Norma Prado was a KISD employee and administrator “long before Nick Prado was ever elected to the board.”
“It would be unfortunate if his presence on the board would have a negative impact on his wife’s career progression or if she would have to leave the district to advance professionally,” he said. “We’ve lost far too many homegrown administrators and administrative-qualified teachers who have left the district only because they never got their chance for advancement with KISD.”
Following Crites’s statement, Greenwood gave a statement to the board as well. He began by saying that it was with “great disappointment” that he viewed the way some of his “associates on this board” conduct business for the district.
“Without a doubt, recently, some board members voted in the negative for every single hire proposed by the superintendent, showing no regret and no concern for unity on this board,” Greenwood said. “In fact, their negative vote was an intimidation tactic to overcome the independent decisions by the superintendent.”
Greenwood said that he had “an open mind and a purpose to do the best for our students and personnel without having to witness coercive action by the board to hire certain people.”
“And I will not vote for the sake of peace, as some have stated, after consistent negative votes by certain board members,” he said.
Greenwood said Superintendent Bera was “putting politics above principle” and hoped that Norma Prado’s recommendation was not her way of “trying to mend fences.”
“All we are doing by not facing the issues at hand upfront is succumbing to coercion by certain board members to continue on their path of destruction for our district,” he said.
Greenwood said he believed some of his fellow board members were against the move, but that they would vote in favor “just to keep friendship.”
“While I want more than anything to maintain peace among the board, I have a stronger will to maintain my ethical and moral obligation,” he said. “I believe it was you, Mr. Prado, yourself that said that perception is reality. Well, sir, the community’s perception on this appointment is that it is ethically wrong.
“When my fellow board members preach promotion of local talent, I have to ask, ‘Do we really mean promotion of our relatives’,” Greenwood asked.
Greenwood concluded his statement by asking Bera if a current board member had ever told her that their spouse was “ready or due a promotion,” and if she had been asked about promoting any current board member’s spouse. Bera replied “yes” to both questions.
The superintendent’s recommendation to employ Norma Prado as the Pogue Center Administrator passed on a 4-2 vote, with Board President Brian Coufal, Secretary Corando Garza and trustees Crites and Cory Garza voting in favor while Greenwood and trustee Lynn Yaklin voted against.
Nick Prado abstained from the vote.
Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at email@example.com or (361) 221-0251.