Sunday, August 27, 2006

Meet the New Boss ...

... Same as the old boss:
LA JOYA — The La Joya school board’s three newest members campaigned last spring against what they called a long tradition of cronyism and corruption in the school district.

But since Rita Garza-Uresti, J.A. "Fito" Salinas and Johnn Valente Alaniz took office in mid-May, the seven-member board has installed several people with close family and political ties to board members.
Pete Townsend was right.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Local Bloggers

The Monitor offers a story on Rio Grande Valley bloggers from recently departed reporter Victoria Hirschberg. The article mentions some local blogs, including Shaine Mata's RGV Life and state Rep. Aaron Peña's A Capitol Blog:
Blogging for Mata has been an off-shoot of his journal writing, which he started after he recently enrolled in classes at the University of Texas – Pan American. Mata’s inspiration to start blogging came from a radio interview with state Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, who started his own blog in January 2005.
What, no mention of Valley In Exile? Victoria, I'm hurt. (just kidding)

By the way, Shaine has another site, Spin RGV, which rounds up posts from several South Texas blogs and newspapers. It's a daily must-read for anyone who wants to keep up with the local chisme.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Message for Journalists

A writer for the New Times Broward-Palm Beach, an alternative weekly, blogs about the media in South Florida (Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach). In that region, just like in the Rio Grande Valley, a lot of corruption takes place. Also like in South Texas, those bastards keep getting away with it.

At the end of this post on local corruption, the writer has a message for his fellow reporters, one that every journalist should hear:
I want every reporter who reads this thing to make a vow today to uncover some corruption this year. Go all the way. Don’t just touch it and say you’re finished. Close the fucking deal. And then fight for it against the sap-headed editor who quit living years ago and doesn’t want to actually feel anything like adrenaline touch his or her tepid bloodstream. It’s time to wake up.
Community watchdog groups and a few local bloggers try to keep an eye on public officials who are up to no good, but think how much more gets done when someone (that is, a reporter) gets paid to root out corruption full-time.

That's why I'm glad the Valley has its own alternative weekly, The Paper of South Texas (which I freelance for). That's one more guardian looking out for taxpayers. Let's hope other RGV reporters wake up and heed this call to uncover corruption in their own backyard.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

School Drama

A McAllen ISD high school principal loses her legal bid opposing her transfer to Central Office. But what was the reason for the transfer in the first place?

The Paper of South Texas (DISCLOSURE: I do freelance work for this publication) fills in the blanks that the mainstream media left empty:
  1. The McHi principal fires the head boys basketball coach.
  2. Angry parents, who like the coach, call for the principal's head.
  3. But a behind-the-scenes player in McAllen politics comes out in the principal's corner.
  4. So the superintendent tries to please both sides by creating a new administrative position for the ousted principal -- something the principal's lawyers say goes against state law.
  5. A district trustee tells The Paper that as far as he knows, the board hasn't created such a position.
Which brings us to where we are now.

Oh, the person advocating to keep the principal? Accused head-butter J.J. Avila, who said McAllen superintendent Yolanda Chapa "owes me big time" for his lobbying for last year's $98 million bond issue.

I'm not sure how this will all play out, but if Avila doesn't get his way, maybe Chapa should start wearing a goalie's mask.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

School Accountability

The Texas Education Agency releases its 2006 accountability ratings for public schools throughout the Lone Star State.

How did your district perform this year? Look it up yourself; I'm feeling lazy today.

Meanwhile, the TEA will investigate several school districts where suspected TAKS cheating occurred, including the Brownsville and Rio Grande City districts.

And Dallas Morning News columnist Macarena Hernandez, who taught high school in the Valley, says the focus on standardized testing hurts our children's education:
[Tests are] completely changing the way teachers teach and students learn. Practice-test drills are common, teachers tell me, and they also complain they have to suppress their creative juices as supervisors demand they play it safe with dumbed-down, rigid curriculums. ...
But something even more troubling than these misplaced priorities is happening in our schools — a growing culture of cheating. And it's contaminating not only students, but also teachers, principals and higher-ups. ...

I've said it before: We're graduating kids who don't know anything but how to game the system on a standardized test. And until state legislators decide to do something about it, the situation will only deteriorate.

Two New Blogs

A couple of new weblogs spring up, and Rio Grande Valley readers might find them of interest:


The first site, Bloggin' All Things Brownsville, aims to "shine a spotlight on those dark corners where political and social issues ... lurk untouched." The author, going by the nom de screen The Spotlight, says local media fail to do their jobs and wants to lend a hand:

... I say, because I've been there, that Brownsville is saturated with news, and a small, overworked, underpaid reporting staff is spread too thin to cover it all. ...

Still, there are couple of standouts in the press here annually garnering top investigative reporting awards in the state, and I want to help. When I mean I want to help, I mean, I want to help aim that spotlight.

The Spotlight delivers, with a post on campaign donations to city commissioners from a law firm that landed a bill collecting contract with Brownsville. In addition, the firm has contracts with several local school districts, including McAllen ISD -- and "board members Javier Farias and Myrna Garcia each received $1,000 in campaign contributions from the firm."

There are more recent stories on the Lucios and other items of interest to Brownsville taxpayers.


The second blog, Valley No Car Tolls, proclaims "Working people of Hidalgo County don't need toll roads!" The author says support for the companies that build and operate these tollways will eclipse the public interest.

It is time to raise the awareness of the Valley community in order to keep the Texas Department of Transportation in line with OUR interests! This community’s interests do not include car tolls.

No recent updates on the blog, but more eyes on government are always welcome.


Thanks to El Rocinante and Spin RGV for tipping readers like me to this pair of recent additions to the South Texas blogosphere.