SAN ANTONIO - Last year, Amanda Gonzalez was appointed to serve on the board of managers overseeing the state's overhaul of the Edgewood Independent School District, and last week, she was notified by email that she was being removed from that position.
Gonzalez has plenty of criticism for the way the Texas Education Agency handled her removal and has serious concerns for the troubled district.
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"I was shocked. There was no professional courtesy extended to me," Gonzalez said. "There was no prior conversation saying I was going to be removed or replaced from the board."
The letter from TEA Commissioner of Education Mike Morath was emailed to Gonzalez last Thursday. She said it was the only official notification she received stating that she was being removed from the Edgewood Board of Managers.
There was no reason given in the letter, causing Gonzalez to question the agency's commitment to transparency in the district.
"If they want to be a champion for education, and if they want board members to carry out transparency and accountability, they need to hold themselves accountable as well and do the same thing," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez was among those handpicked by the TEA to lead the troubled district in May 2016 when the state took over following an investigation that found the previous Edgewood board was dysfunctional.
While she was surprised by her removal, Gonzalez said she began hearing rumors of her impending replacement about a week before the letter was sent. She's now left to speculate why she was replaced, and she believes it is because she asked too many tough questions.
"I believe that student outcomes are not the focus for the district, nor has it been the focus for TEA, and I feel when I've raised those types of concerns to TEA, I was reprimanded," Gonzalez said. "When I took on this role, it was very important to me to instill that transparency and that accountability, and what I'm really not understanding right now is why I'm getting reprimanded for asking questions. I feel like maybe the individuals they wanted for this role needed to rubber-stamp things, and they were highly mistaken if they thought I was that type of person."
State Sen. Jose Menendez was also concerned by Gonzalez's removal. In a letter to TEA Commissioner Morath, Menendez wrote: "I believe the demand to remove a board member should be a last resort not to be taken lightly because it now casts a shadow over your entire role at EISD."
The letter continued to say: "What is most troubling is that the board member targeted may be the most vocal of the board members. The community perception is that your action is about avoiding scrutiny and transparency. They have also brought attention to troubling incidents and this action may be perceived as retaliation."
Menendez hinted at more problems within the district that could come to light as a result of Gonzalez's removal.
"There are very serious allegations that have been made toward your Superintendent and police department and a removal of a board member may be received as complicity by TEA in any damaging behaviors that may be found," the letter stated.
Gonzalez said she's left with many unanswered questions about the state of the district and how TEA intends to improve it.
"I'm very concerned as a resident of the district. I'm very concerned for the parents whose kids they take to school every day, and I hope that they continue to demand answers," Gonzalez said. "I had the optimism that things would get better, but unfortunately they didn't."
The TEA did not provide the KSAT 12 Defenders with a reason for removing Gonzalez.
In a statement, spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson wrote: "The Commissioner of Education is solely responsible for appointing members of the board of managers in a district. The authority is with the Commissioner throughout the term of the appointed board. The commissioner has thanked Ms. Gonzalez for her service on this board."
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