School taxes are everybody’s concern this legislative year. But here in San Angelo, we have another concern—or at least I do: the arbitrary manner in which the school board acts.
In November 2018, Mr. Gerald Gallegos, the District 6 board trustee for San Angelo Independent School District, moved out of his district and took up residence in neighboring District 3. According to the Texas Election Code, by doing so, he vacated his seat on the board.
Two months later, in January 2019, the remaining members of the board, acting on their own supposed authority, redrew the school district lines so that Mr. Gallegos’s new residence was now in District 6. Since he had been elected to represent District 6, by their reckoning, there was no board vacancy. Mr. Gallegos remained on the board.
Perfectly reasonable, right?
Maybe. But we all know that an act being reasonable doesn’t make it legal. I believe this arbitrary redrawing of district lines was unethical and in violation of the state Constitution.
According to the Texas Constitution, Article XVI, Section 14, a person elected or appointed to serve as a board member must remain a resident of the district throughout the term of office. A board member who ceases to reside in the district vacates the office. Mr. Gallegos did just that when he relocated to District 3. Additionally, the school board’s own policy manual categorically echoes that “any person elected or appointed to serve as a board member must remain a resident throughout the term of office,” and “a board member who ceases to reside in the district vacates the office.”
I’m not questioning the school board’s authority to initiate changes to district lines to effect population balance, but that’s not the case here. The number of residents affected by this change is not significant for either the losing or gaining district, though it is significant to the residents involved since it impacts their franchise to vote. More importantly, however, any change has to be reviewed and approved by the Texas secretary of state. As far as I know, that has not been done. Unless and until that takes place, the lines for Districts 3 and 6 remain as they were, and Mr. Gallegos is not yet a legal resident of District 6. Logically, then, he cannot be elected or appointed to the board of trustees for District 6.
Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? If this current appointment of Mr. Gallegos to the board as the representative of District 6 were temporary and short-lived, perhaps the issue would be moot. However, that particular seat is up for election in May 2019. That means appointing Mr. Gallegos to occupy it now is tantamount to awarding him a full-term appointment since he has filed for re-election to the District 6 seat and has no opposition.
Still no big deal? When does it become one? The residents of neither District 3 nor District 6 were given advance notice of the change, which took place only a few weeks before registration to run for office closed. District 3 didn’t have an election coming up, so they weren’t prepared to nominate a candidate on short notice even if they had been informed.
It is clear, too, that the district lines were changed for the sole purpose of accommodating the incumbency of Mr. Gallegos on the school board. This is the epitome of cronyism, and that bothers me. Has anyone else run into this or similar issues of the school board acting arbitrarily?
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