Harlandale school district spent $100K on attorneys to fight TEA

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The Harlandale school district has spent six figures fighting the Texas Education Agency after the agency accused the San Antonio area district’s board of trustees and superintendent of violating state laws and not having proper financial controls in place.

An open records request by the San Antonio Express-News revealed that private-practice attorneys billed the district $100,334 as of April 1 to respond to the TEA investigation that began in August 2017.

TEA announced last week that it will replace the Harlandale school board and the district’s superintendent, Rey Madrigal, who is accused of steering work to a vendor without approval from the board.

A $58,850 payment was made in January to attorney Kevin O’Hanlon of Austin. That was after district resident Gina Castaneda pleaded with district trustees not to spend more money to contest the allegations by TEA.  

Board President Ricardo Moreno, a 2003 graduate of Harlandale High School, told the newspaper he wanted to hire O’Hanlon and other lawyers involved in the case to prevent the district from receiving a lesser accreditation.

Castaneda told the Express-News on Thursday that taxpayers would have been better served if the money being spent on outside attorneys was instead spent on schools.

“That’s a hundred thousand dollars that could have been used for items the teachers could have been using. The kids could have gone to educational field trips,” she said. “We need to be good stewards.”

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