Sam Mullen, co-owner and chief financial officer of the now-defunct insurance brokerage firm, cultivated cozy relationships with key San Antonio Independent School District trustees to keep earning commissions from high-dollar insurance contracts, he testified Thursday in the federal bribery trial of former trustee Olga Hernandez. Of all the board members, Mullen said, his company spent the most time and money on Hernandez and her husband, inviting the couple to use complimentary plane tickets and hotel rooms Mullen and his ex-wife had received for casino vacations, picking up their check time after time at expensive restaurants and giving Hernandez jewelry and campaign contributions. view article arw

To maximize business, a local insurance broker exploited its connections at the San Antonio Independent School District at various levels so it could land and keep lucrative contracts that paid out handsome commissions.  The broker, the Mullen Group, worked its political contacts on the SAISD school board to keep a superintendent that would be supportive of the Mullen Group, and lobbied the contacts to push through the hiring of a consultant that not only would work for the district, but secretly for the Mullen Group as well, according to testimony Wednesday in a federal bribery trial for a former SAISD trustee. view article arw

The Limestone County Sheriff's Office said they are working on a complaint involving the Coolidge Independent School District.  view article arw

Couple accused of stealing PTA funds

December 1408:15 AM
 

HUTTO – On Saturday, Hutto ISD announced that a couple had been arrested for theft against Ray Elementary School PTA in Hutto.  According to media accounts, Ray Elementary PTA Board members contacted police in June and reported that about $16,000 had been stolen from the account.  The reports said A+ Federal Credit Union contacted a board member about returned checks written by Natalie Hudson-Rapp, 40, and Clinton Rapp, 46, which were returned. view article arw

The Highland Park Independent School District has issued a statement regarding a teacher who may have been involved in an improper relationship with a district student. On Tuesday, Dec. 5, Amarillo Police Department detectives received information on a possible improper relationship between an educator and a student. On Thursday, Dec. 7, 25-year-old Brian Pantoja was arrested and booked into the Potter County Detention Center. view article arw

Kilgore ISD trustees and administrators Monday will discuss their options following a ruling in the lawsuit complaining the district should not have eliminated its local-option homestead exemption.  Judge Vincent Dulweber of Gregg Count Court at Law No. 2 ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against the district by Darlene and John Claude Axberg and Sheila Anderson Sept. 29, 2016.  KISD Superintendent Cara Cooke said the board will convene in executive session Monday to hear the ruling explained by their attorney, Dennis Eichelbaum. The board will then “go from there, based on recommendation,” said Superintendent Cara Cooke. view article arw

HUTTO, Texas (KXAN) — An investigation into a husband and wife’s dealings with a Hutto, Texas elementary school’s parent teacher association began when a bank alerted board members that the PTA’s account balance was in the red.  Board members for the Ray Elementary School PTA contacted police on June 29, 2017, to report about $16,000 stolen from the account.  A+ Federal Credit Union called one of the members concerning suspicious activity on the account after checks written by Natalie Hudson-Rapp, 40, and Clinton Rapp, 46, were returned. view article arw

In the nearly 18 months since Patricia Lambert was convicted of stealing from Beaumont ISD, the former administrator has paid less than $8,000 of the $500,000 restitution she owes the district, according to federal court documents filed Thursday. Lambert, a former BISD assistant superintendent, was sentenced in June 2016 to more than three years in federal prison for stealing half a million dollars from the Central High School booster club and student activities funds. view article arw

A board member and her husband have been arrested and charged with committing theft against the Ray Elementary School PTA, Hutto ISD announced Saturday. According to court records, the couple is accused of stealing $15,000. The school district said the board member was immediately removed from her position on the board after the allegations arose. view article arw

The Denver City Independent School District has placed their high school girls basketball coach, Kody Brown, on leave pending an investigation. Brown, who was placed on leave on Wednesday, is accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a student. view article arw

Advising that a moment of silence is the preferable way to open school board meetings, the Freedom from Religion Foundation has sent a letter to the Killeen Independent School District. Dated Dec. 7, the letter is signed by Sam Grover, associate counsel for the Wisconsin-based foundation. The letter’s purpose is to alert KISD to “constitutional concerns and community objections to the practice of scheduling prayer” at KISD board meetings. view article arw

Advising that a moment of silence is the preferable way to open school board meetings, the Freedom from Religion Foundation has sent a letter to the Killeen Independent School District. Dated Dec. 7, the letter is signed by Sam Grover, associate counsel for the Wisconsin-based foundation. The letter’s purpose is to alert KISD to “constitutional concerns and community objections to the practice of scheduling prayer” at KISD board meetings. The Freedom from Religion Foundation has 30,000 members nationally, and 1,300 members in Texas, according to the letter. view article arw

After discovering information that an employee may have engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a student, Denver City Independent School District has placed the employee on administrative leave and started an investigation, according to a statement from the district superintendent on Wednesday. Gary Davis, Denver City ISD superintendent, said the alleged misconduct has also been reported to law enforcement and to the Texas Education Agency. view article arw

Despite a judge's insistence that the trial of former Beaumont ISD contract electrician Calvin Walker get under way as quickly as possible, a Monday hearing likely set the stage for another round of appeals over its constitutionality. Walker faces six charges of fraud and money-laundering in Jefferson County's Criminal District Court. In 2012, he pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor charge of failure to pay taxes in a timely manner after his trial in U.S. District Court for fraud and money-laundering ended in a hung jury and a mistrial. view article arw

The Supreme Court declined to hear a case challenging student-led prayer at Birdville ISD board meetings last week. That decision is a victory for students of faith. Back in 2015, Isaiah Smith and the American Humanist Association sued the school district, challenging the constitutionality of the school board often opening meetings with prayers under the Establishment Clause. The executive director of the AHA said the prayers are an “unfair and inappropriate practice.” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton backed the school district, saying, “The student expressions permitted by the Birdville ISD policy are the private speech of the students and thus are permissible under the First Amendment.” view article arw

A complaint between the Corpus Christi Independent School District and an organization that protects the separation of church and state has been resolved.  The school district said in a letter it will not incorporate religious activities in field trips or athletic events.  The response came after the district was sent a letter from Freedom From Religion, a nonprofit organization that protects the separation of church and state. view article arw

Student-led prayer will continue at a Texas public school board thanks to court rulings and also a school board that fought the lawsuit. The U.S. Supreme Court is leaving in place a court ruling that the Birdville Independent School District can open its board meetings with student-led statements, which includes prayers. view article arw

A Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District world history teacher is accused of having a sexual relationship with a male student. Michelle Schiffer, 23, of Houston, is charged with improper relationship between educator and student, and sexual assault of a child. view article arw

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that it won't review a North Texas case on student-led public prayers at school board meetings. The court's denial leaves in place the ruling by the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that allows Birdville Independent School District in northeast Tarrant County to open its school board meetings with a student prayer. view article arw

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court is leaving in place a court ruling that a North Texas school board can open its meetings with student-led public prayers without running afoul of the Constitution's prohibition against government-established religion. The court on Monday declined to take a case challenging the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans. A three-judge panel of that court earlier this year said a lower court was correct to dismiss a lawsuit against Birdville ISD over its practice of beginning meetings with a statement from a student, usually a prayer. view article arw

 The Supreme Court is leaving in place a court ruling that a North Texas school board can open its meetings with student-led public prayers without running afoul of the Constitution’s prohibition against government-established religion. The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take a case challenging the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans.  A three-judge panel of that court earlier this year said a lower court was correct to dismiss a lawsuit against the Birdville Independent School District over its practice of beginning meetings with a statement from a student that is usually a prayer. view article arw

Claims haunt TEA official

November 2708:40 AM
 

The troubled Texas Education Agency has fired its new special education director. Laurie Kash, who started work in August, was recently accused in a lawsuit of trying to cover up child abuse allegations while she worked as a special education director at Rainier School District in Oregon. The $1.85 million suit claims that Kash ordered several employees to keep quiet about the child's allegations.  "These allegations were not disclosed during the hiring process, and if these serious allegations had been disclosed, she would not have been hired," according to a statement issued by TEA. view article arw

The Board of Trustees of the Muleshoe Independent School District met in regular session Monday, Nov 13. All board members, Lisa Whalin, business manager and Dr. R.L. Richards, superintendent, were present. The minutes of the previous meeting on Oct. 23 were approved.  Sudan ISD Board of Trustees met on the Nov. 13, and the Muleshoe ISD Board of Trustees met the same night. The school administrations had been working together to solve the issue on school transportation boundaries as outlined in Texas Attorney Ken Paxton’s Opinion KP-0166 (see below). view article arw

School prayer has long been a hot topic, but the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday considered hearing a Texas case on a sensitive related subject: student-led prayers at school board meetings. The case comes from Birdville ISD in the Fort Worth suburb of Haltom City, where pupils have for two decades delivered invocations at board meetings. view article arw

School prayer has long been a hot topic, but the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday considered hearing a Texas case on a sensitive related subject: student-led prayers at school board meetings. The case comes from Birdville ISD in the Fort Worth suburb of Haltom City, where pupils have for two decades delivered invocations at board meetings. “Whether prayers delivered at school board meetings unconstitutionally coerce young students into participating in religious exercises” is the key issue, said Monica L. Miller, senior counsel for the American Humanist Association, which filed the case on behalf of a former Birdville student. “It’s very problematic.” view article arw

LaPoynor ISD removes Christian flag

November 1608:10 AM
 

Students at LaPoynor ISD are upset about a Christian flag being removed from their school. This comes after the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a formal complaint in October, asking the district to take it down. The group fights for separation of church and state and said the flag was non-inclusive. "We were all devastated and ticked off about it," said Jared Sanchez, a student at LaPoynor High School. view article arw

Texas school districts, law enforcement and courts have a relatively new tool at their disposal to help fight cyberbullying. 'David's Law' is named after David Bartlett Molak, a San Antonio teenager who killed himself in January of 2016 at the age of 16. David's family said the Eagle Scout was "continuously harassed, humiliated and threatened by a group of students through text messages and social media." "After the loss of David, there were a lot of legislators who realized we need to do something," said El Paso-area State Representative Mary Gonzalez, a co-sponsor of the bill. view article arw

What happened on a stage over the summer is putting a spotlight on McKinney ISD. Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel held hands and prayed during a staff assembly at Prestonwood Baptist Church. Fast forward to a November school board meeting, a small group is taking up an age-old fight over the separation of church and state. view article arw

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - With both gun rights supporters and gun control advocates nationwide looking on, lawyers for Newtown families and gun maker Remington Arms are set to face off Tuesday before the Connecticut Supreme Court to argue whether the company should be held liable for the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.  Gunman Adam Lanza killed 20 first-graders and six educators on Dec. 14, 2012, with a Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle, the same type of firearm used in other mass shootings including at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, earlier this month. Lanza also fatally shot his mother at their Newtown home and killed himself as police arrived at the school. view article arw

Request for Opinion - As Chair of the House Committee on Elections, I respectfully request a formal opinion regarding the authority given by the legislature to local school boards in Texas to create and use term limits as part of their specific district governance policies.  view article arw

In addition to being funded through a state-funded program designed to establish a minimum educational threshold in every school, Texas public elementary and secondary schools rely on local property taxes for supplemental revenue. Rodriguez, acting on behalf of students whose families reside in poor districts, challenged this funding scheme by arguing that it underprivileged such students because their schools lacked the vast property tax base that other districts utilized.  view article arw

The mother of a child with special needs alleges a PE teacher attacked her son, slamming him onto concrete, leaving bruises from his face to his hands. “This scar that’s right here. He has scratches on his chest,” said Ashley Degrate, describing the bruises over her son, Cavontrell Smith. More Headlines Morton Ranch High School student arrested, charged after bringing gun to campus Rifle listed among items at raffle for high school seniors Video: Army dad surprises wife, daughter at elementary school after… Smith, 10, is enrolled in fifth grade at Lane Elementary School, located on the 2000 block of Aldine Bender Road. Lane is considered an alternative school. Cavontrell is there, his mother says, because of a behavioral and emotional disorder. view article arw

Back in 2014, Daniel Barker was working as an art teacher and football coach at Leonard Junior High. That's when authorities say he began messaging one of his students, a 13-year-old girl. "It started with social media and texting and then the messages back and forth got hot and heavy," said Fannin County District Attorney Richard Glaser. view article arw

The Gatesville Hornet football program has been surrounded by controversy this season, based on allegations that six varsity players used performance-enhancing drugs over the summer. On Oct. 27, District 13-4A’s District Executive Committee (DEC) voted to suspend those players for 30 days, to the dismay of Liberty Hill ISD Superintendent and DEC Chair Dr. Rob Hart. That same afternoon, the University Interscholastic League’s (UIL) State Executive Committee (SEC), sharing Hart’s view, overturned the suspension. On Friday, those six Hornets will be on the field against Liberty Hill in their final district game. view article arw

The Christian flag has been removed from LaPoynor ISD's property and installed on a nearby utility pole. It's not clear when the flag was taken down or moved, or which utility company owns the right of way where it has been erected. Superintendent James Young could not be reached on Wednesday. In an Athens Daily Review story on Nov. 1, Mat Staver, the founder of the Liberty Counsel, a non-profit faith-based advocacy organization, said the Christian flag at LaPoynor ISD could continue to fly under one condition — add a secular flag to fly with the U.S., Christian and Texas flags. view article arw