Dr. Thomas Harvey, the controversial school district superintendent of La Vernia, a town just southeast of San Antonio, Texas, is set to retire just six months after citizens overwhelming elected and replaced new trustees to the board.
Under Harvey’s tenure, many teachers and students said they had been living through a storm of distrust, alarm and indifference.
Years of failed attempts by many parents to get answers or resolution to their concerns through letters, emails, phone conversations and even in public school board meetings led to the May 11, 2013 election that expelled trustees deemed most supportive of Harvey’s tactics.
Retirement and release...
At 7 p.m. on Sunday, October 20, 2013, a special meeting of the La Vernia Independent School District Board of Trustees will be held at the primary school cafeterium to discuss Harvey’s “retirement and release and other personnel issues.”
Sources close to the issue indicate there appears to be "mutual agreement between both parties" and Harvey will be "released soon."
The agenda indicates there will be both a closed and open session that will include discussion and possible action on an interim superintendent and “superintendent search process.”
Unresponsive to the public...
Local resident and mother Jennifer Moczygemba, who at one time resorted to using the Public Information Act to gather the information that was being withheld or not communicated by the previous board and Harvey, contacted the FBI, Office of Inspector General of the Department of Education and others in May 2012.
“The school board has been unresponsive to the public on all of these issues,” she stated in her correspondence to the different agencies then. “Not surprising, as they have an unshakable allegiance to the district superintendent.”
Suicide of an assistant principal...
Moczygemba briefly outlined some of the allegations and concerns in her letters:
“…..embezzlement, a questionable land purchase by the ISD from the ISD’s director of finance, misuse of state grant funds, suicide of an assistant principal, a classroom teacher with a methamphetamine habit and her subsequent arrest, teacher who slapped a student, rampant nepotism, recurrent intimidation by a superintendent and other district leadership, reprimands for teachers and staff that speak out or question the ethics of district practices, and lastly, patterns of declining annual test scores.”
Despite the outrage, the school board, deeply entrenched with their stonewalling and self-supporting tactics, continued to stay put in supporting Harvey and then board president Mike Jendrusch.
Principal having a sexual affair...
“It’s been disheartening to go to school here, but we are excited and hopeful,” said one 18-year-old female student. “We have grown up feeling disregarded by the school board and knowing our married principal was having a sexual affair with a married policeman during school hours. What does that teach us?”
“Our teachers are afraid of the vengeance of Doc (Dr. Thomas Harvey, Superintendent), a teacher exposing our younger brothers and sisters to drugs and coming to school high, a wonderful man and vice-principal who committed suicide from the pressure, and that school board who would not listen to our parents about the corruption,” she said. “My friends are so excited. We feel refreshing hope.”
In the city of 1200, where most of La Vernia’s elections see no more than 200 voters, the May 2013 turnout historical.
A very clear message...
Board president Jendrusch, a steadfast supporter of Dr. Harvey, lost to mom Janette Chall by a landslide, 887 to 237.
Moczygemba stated “the voters of LVISD sent a very clear message to the school administration that they want positive proactive change in our district.”
Susan Reinhard, who beat incumbent John Bilicek 723 to 182 in Place 3, said she would encourage “input from the teachers, staff, parents and students.”
“My first priority is to work to ensure that our employees feel free to express concerns and needs without fear of retaliation,” said Cody Miller, who beat incumbent Eric Frederichs 641 to 414 for Place 4 spot.
Kimi Kravitz won the Place 2 seat over incumbent Richard Shier 842 to 219.
Our kids come first...
“We have many wonderful people in La Vernia that have great ideas which need to be heard and shared,” Kravitz said.
Kravitz said the new board’s intent was “to start by making the school board meetings a welcoming and informative place to be.”
She said she would work with other school board trustees and La Vernia citizens “to make our district ‘the one’ that other districts want to model because of its open lines of communication, trust, transparency, fiscal responsibility, happy and safe employees and students, and truly a district of academic excellence. Our kids come first.”