Our ACTS – Accountability, Community, Transparency, and Systems – News hub will serve as the District’s dedicated news website. The ACTS News page is currently in a preliminary format while our District’s Communications Team completes the development of the brand new website that will be the dedicated home for ACTS News.
Once the permanent news website is launched, it will provide for our District’s stakeholders a wealth of information on subjects such as how our District functions, the innovative learning opportunities available for all students, the implementation of safety and security measures, and what we’re doing to prepare our students to graduate college, military, or career ready.
Stay tuned for the unveiling of the ACTS News’ permanent home!
(Posted: November 2, 2022 3:04 PM)
Thursday, March 9, 2023 2:45 PM
Cora Mendez, a fourth grade teacher at the Sullivan Environmental Science Academy, was named a finalist for the H-E-B Excellence in Education Award.
This award category is designed to recognize teachers and is based on the following criteria: passion and commitment to the teaching profession; innovation and creativity in the classroom, and professional growth and development.
As a finalist in the teacher category, Mrs. Mendez received a $1,000 check for herself and a $1,000 check for her school.
Created in 2002, the H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards are designed to honor outstanding public school professionals and to thank them for their dedication and commitment. Through this program, H E B seeks to pay tribute to those educators who go the extra mile each and every day to serve their students and their communities and who inspire others to do the same.
Mrs. Mendez will travel to San Antonio for the awards gala in April 2023, during which judges will conduct face-to-face interviews. Winners will be announced on Sunday, April 30.
March 2, 2023 4:06 PM
San Benito CISD | An Open Letter to the Community:
San Benito CISD community and stakeholders,
On February 23, 2023, District administration held a budget workshop* with a focus on strategically funding the construction of the 2018 bond-sanctioned performing arts center and natatorium. The construction of these facilities is currently in progress with the final completion date still pending.
District administration presented change orders from Davila Construction, Inc. for material cost escalation as well as a change order for weather delays – which would extend the projected completion date of the natatorium from April 14, 2023 to August 19, 2023; the projected date of completion for the performing arts center would move from July 21, 2023 to December 28, 2023. It is important to note that these change orders have not yet been approved by the Board of Trustees. Additionally, the District outlined, in detail, current and upcoming expenditures related to the bond projects. As of February 15, 2023, the District has paid and encumbered a total of $44,022,426 for the three bond projects.
The administration meticulously detailed the additional funding required to ensure the performing arts center and natatorium are fully functional and ready for student use; these monies would be taken from the District’s fund balance. The following expenditures are still pending board review, discussion, and approval:
- change order for material cost escalation – $1,292,343;
- civil package which includes gutters, drainage, sidewalks, parking lot, electrical and utilities connections to buildings, inside curbs, and landscaping – $4,500,000 [estimate]; and
- other pending items including access controls, technology, security system, communication system, furniture, etc. – $2,000,000 [estimate].
This will bring the total use of fund balance for bond projects to $11,814,769; hence, the total amount for the bond projects is estimated at $51,814,769. The administration and school board will continue to work diligently to ensure the completion of the bond projects and to fund it accordingly.
As the District re-examines the necessary steps and personnel required to assert the fruition of these projects, we want to thank our San Benito stakeholders for their patience and support. In the coming weeks, final budgetary decisions will be made. Rest assured that our students are at the forefront of every decision we make.
SBCISD pledges to keep you informed and asserts that all bond projects will come to successful completion. Giving our community the state-of-the-art facilities promised is our mission.
Superintendent of Schools
* Budget Workshop | Advance to the 14:58 time mark: https://livestream.com/ksbg/meetings/videos/235176481
February 24, 2023 11:12 AM
Three District employees were recently recognized for demonstrating Gold Standard performance in the areas of customer service; support of students, staff, and parents; teamwork; and service to others.
The January 2023 Gold Standard honorees are the following:
- Melissa Hellevik-Ramos, Special Services Department physical therapist (non-campus based professional category);
- Celina Lopez, secretary for the San Benito CISD Police Department (non-campus based employee category); and
- Jacob Rangel, custodian at Dr. Raul Garza, Jr. STEAM Academy (campus-based non-paraprofessional category).
Gold Standard employee Celina Lopez (second from right), secretary for the San Benito CISD Police Department, is pictured with (from left) Chief of Police Juan Sosa, Human Resources Director Erika Echartea, Director of Communications Isabel González, and Executive Director of Administrative Services Abraham Gallegos.
Gold Standard employee Jacob Rangel (on left), custodian at Dr. Raul Garza, Jr. STEAM Academy, is pictured with campus principal Victor Monreal.
February 24, 2023 10:34 AM
Students of all ages from the 34th Congressional District of Texas were invited to participate in this year’s “Valentines for Vets” program. In its fourth year, the program encourages constituents to show their appreciation to local veterans by creating Valentine’s Day cards for them.
This year, the following three San Benito CISD campuses participated: La Paloma Elementary, Miller Jordan Middle School, and San Benito Veterans Memorial Academy.
Several hundred hand-made and colored Valentines from San Benito students were hand-delivered to the office of United States Congressman Vicente González in Weslaco, Texas.
“Thank you for involving the San Benito CISD campuses! We truly appreciate the work San Benito’s students put into creating cards for our Veterans,” said Ben Whitman, caseworker for Congressman González.
The “Valentines for Vets” program is an opportunity to demonstrate to local veterans that their communities continue to think of and appreciate them throughout the year.
February 24, 2023 8:55 AM
Please complete the ECF survey (below) if your child has a need for a computer device or Internet hotspot to participate in remote learning. *Note: remote learning includes completing homework online after school hours.
Please contact the Office of Student Support Services at 956-361-6176 if you have any questions.
El programa de Fondo de Conectividad de Emergencia (ECF, por sus siglas en inglés) está ayudando a San Benito CISD asistir a cerrar la brecha de tareas para los estudiantes que actualmente carecen del acceso al Internet necesario o de los dispositivos que necesitan para conectarse a salones de clase.
Por favor complete la encuesta de ECF (a continuación) si su hijo/a necesita una computadora/tableta o un hotspot de Internet para participar en el aprendizaje remoto. *Nota: el aprendizaje remoto incluye completar la tarea en línea después del horario escolar.
Por favor comuníquese con la Oficina de Servicios de Apoyo Estudiantil al 956-361-6176 si tiene alguna pregunta.
Tomar la encuesta
February 23, 2023 4:01 PM
For school and community safety, the District adopted the “I Love U Guys” Foundation’s Standard Response Protocol (SRP). Districtwide, students and staff have been training, practicing, and having drills on said protocol since August 2022.
The SRP is essentially based on the following five (5) actions:
- EVACUATE!, and
We encourage parents/guardians and members of our community to review the critical safety information posted below (.pdf resources). For additional information, Spanish resources, and training videos, click here: https://iloveuguys.org/The-Standard-Response-Protocol.html.
February 23, 2023 3:07 PM
San Benito CISD recently hosted, in cooperation with Harlingen Medical Center, a mini health fair for the District’s five Operations teams – Child Nutrition Program, Energy Management and HVAC, Maintenance, Safety, and Transportation – at the Jana Kay Landrum Memorial Auxiliary Services Building.
The mini health fair provided glucose, blood pressure and body mass index (BMI) screenings and diabetic foot assessments to help promote health awareness. Educational health-related materials were also provided to participants.
“Our Operations personnel were very appreciative of our efforts in recognizing the value of their health,” said Ray Saldaña, Executive Director of Operations.
“Our five teams are proud to work collectively in providing a safe, clean, comfortable, functional, and efficient instructional environment for all students, staff, and visitors,” he added.
February 17, 2023 4:03 PM
JOIN US in raising scholarship monies for our San Benito High School Class of 2023!
Sponsorship and participation opportunities are available for the 5th Annual San Benito CISD Superintendent’s Golf Tournament to be held on Saturday, April 22, 2023, at the Treasure Hills Golf Club in Harlingen.
To sign up, contact Coach Ramiro Partida at (956) 454-1271. For additional information, please E-mail golf tournament organizers at [email protected].
February 10, 2023 4:25 PM
On Friday, February 10, 2023, San Benito CISD mailed the first round of Collegiate Academy acceptance letters to students who applied for admission.
Students accepted into the Collegiate Academy had successfully interviewed with campus staff and completed math and writing assessments.
Given the rigor of the admissions process, Theresa Servellon, Superintendent of Schools, believed it was important to personally sign each acceptance letter. “The students worked hard, and the staff was excellent,” Servellon stated after observing the assessment and interview process.
The District is planning a celebration to welcome new students to the campus.
The Collegiate Academy will continue to accept applications for the second round of interviews and assessments, which will begin during the week of February 20, 2023.
Families interested in applying to the Collegiate Academy can submit an application online at https://bit.ly/sbinicio. For more information about the District’s INICIO Academies, visit www.inicioacademies.org.
February 10, 2023 3:56 PM
As of Friday, February 3, 2023, seven community members have submitted their application for a place on the ballot for the school district’s upcoming general election.
The May 6, 2023, general election will decide who will fill the Place 4, 5, 6, and 7 trustee seats.
San Benito residents interested in running for a position on the San Benito CISD Board of Trustees may file an application for candidacy between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM at the John F. Barron Administration building, located at 240 N. Crockett St. in San Benito. The filing deadline is next Friday, February 17, 2023 at 5:00 PM.
An updated list of candidates will be posted next Friday evening.
San Benito CISD is proud to partner with the Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame and Museum in promoting, preserving, and displaying the history of regional conjunto music by honoring conjunto music pioneers and those who continue to create it.
The District’s contribution of surplus furniture such as tables, chairs, bulletin boards, and cabinets will be used to furnish the museum’s new home – the historic Azteca Building on Robertson Street in San Benito.
The museum’s grand opening will be next Saturday, February 18, 2023, from 3:30 PM to 7:00 PM. The museum is located at 402 W. Robertson Street.
KSBG Video: https://livestream.com/ksbg/events/7085162/videos/234972698
The Collegiate Academy will offer an advanced middle school curriculum for students in grades 6 through 8. Students will be engaged in a rigorous, advanced curriculum designed to promote the critical and complex thinking skills necessary in today’s agile society.
The Collegiate Academy is one of six INICIO Academies. They are each designed with classic principles steeped in concept-based learning and innovative practices that promote student achievement and provide opportunities to build capacity for excellence districtwide.
For additional information and/or to apply for admission for the 2023-2024 academic year, visit www.inicioacademies.org.
Last week, the Frontline Impact Project® and Lysol®️ delivered 40 pallets of Lysol disinfectant wipes to San Benito CISD. Abraham Gallegos, Executive Director of Administrative Services, applied for the grant for the Lysol wipes.
“With COVID and flu cases on the rise, we wanted to ensure that our students and staff were protected from germs. We are extremely grateful and appreciative of this generous donation of disinfectant wipes that will help us maintain a clean, healthy, and safe learning environment,” explained Gallegos.
The District’s facilities and purchasing crews delivered the donation of 30,000 80-count packs of Lysol®️ disinfectant wipes districtwide. Their efforts will help reduce the spread of illness-causing germs and keep our kids in school as part of Lysol®️’s Here for Healthy Schools campaign.
For additional information on this health initiative, visit: frontlineimpact.org/wipes.
San Benito CISD community,
To assist the Texas Attorney General’s office with its investigation into RDA Technologies pertaining to RDA conduct involving the sale of District devices to RDA, San Benito CISD voluntarily produced all communications* exchanged between its cybersecurity counsel, Lynn Sessions of BakerHostetler, and RDA Technologies. The District anticipates that the Texas Attorney General will send representatives to RDA Technologies in the coming weeks to review the purchased devices and look into RDA Technologies’ conduct and apparent pattern of behavior in its attempts to extract significant funds from its customers.
RDA Technologies previously employed a similar scheme against at least one other Texas school district, Edcouch Elsa ISD, in 2019. As referenced in a KRGV Channel 5 News story (https://www.krgv.com/news/students-information-mistakenly-sold-at-edcouch-elsa-isd-auction), RDA Technologies purchased devices from an online auction, and despite Edcouch Elsa ISD’s efforts to collect the devices, RDA Technologies “chose not to cooperate and not hand over the computers.” Wholly unlike the sale of San Benito CISD devices, Edcouch Elsa ISD discovered that the computers purchased by RDA Technologies contained “students’ names, addresses, birth dates, medical records, and Social Security numbers.”
In light of the numerous misrepresentations reported by some local media outlets, the District feels compelled to emphasize that the Texas Attorney General is not investigating the District regarding the sale of its devices to RDA Technologies. Rather, the District is providing information to the Texas Attorney General to aid representatives from the Texas Attorney General’s office in their future inspection of RDA Technologies.
Superintendent of Schools
Dr. Lucas Gomez was unanimously named the principal for La Paloma Elementary by the San Benito CISD Board of Trustees during the Thursday, January 26, 2023, special meeting. A proud San Benito High School Class of 2000 graduate, Dr. Gomez brings to his new role 15 years of experience in education.
Dr. Gomez is a proud product of San Benito CISD having attending Dr. C.M. Cash Elementary, Miller Jordan Middle School, and San Benito High School. His post-secondary education encompasses the following: in 2007, earned a bachelor’s degree in History from the University of Texas - Pan American; in 2015, received a Master of Science in Education from Walden University; attended the University of St. Thomas in Houston and received his Principal Certification in 2019; and attended Walden University and, in 2022, received Doctorate in Education with an emphasis in Educational Administration.
Dr. Gomez worked as a seventh grade History teacher at Jaime Escalante Middle School in Pharr from 2011 to 2012; taught eighth grade History at IDEA College Prep Weslaco from 2012 to 2016; taught eighth grade History at Coakley Middle School from 2016 to 2019; served as an assistant principal at La Encantada Elementary and, most recently, as an assistant principal at San Benito High School.
In 2016, IDEA College Prep honored Dr. Gomez as “Teacher of the Year.” While at Coakley Middle School, the campus received a Texas Education Agency (TEA) Academic Distinction in History for two consecutive years for their exemplary STAAR scores. During his last year at La Encantada Elementary, the campus earned 6 out of 6 possible TEA Academic Distinctions.
In June 2022, Dr. Gomez was named the Cameron County Precinct 4 Constituent of the Month for his outstanding service and support to the local community. “We are grateful for people like Dr. Gomez, who are the local heroes in their community. It takes a village to raise a child, and he is an instrumental part of the local community village,” said Gus Ruiz, Cameron County Commissioner of Precinct 4, in recognition of Dr. Gomez’ community service.
“I hope to serve as a conduit for the students of San Benito and show them the doors which will open for them through education. As principal at La Paloma Elementary, I will work to empower the community, support the teachers/staff, and most importantly, provide a premier education for all students,” shared Dr. Gomez.
Mr. Ysasi, a Raymondville native, has been in education since 2003 when he started his career as an afterschool and substitute teacher with the Mount Pleasant Independent School District in Mount Pleasant, Texas. In 2006, Mr. Ysasi started his professional teaching career teaching History and Advanced Placement Government and Economics at Mount Pleasant High School. From 2010 to 2015, Mr. Ysasi then served as an assistant principal with Harts Bluff ISD, also in Mount Pleasant. In 2015, Mr. Ysasi served one year as the principal of Riverside Middle School with San Benito CISD. He then returned to Mount Pleasant and served as a high school principal of Chapel Hill High School from 2016 to 2022.
Mr. Ysasi and his wife, Amanda, have two children. His beloved wife is a high school Mathematics teacher and adjunct college instructor. Mr. Ysasi is currently working toward his doctoral degree from Texas A&M University - Commerce in Educational Administration; his anticipated graduation date is December 2023.
As principal of Chapel Hill High School (CHHS), Mr. Ysasi implemented many programs, one being the CHHS Early College Academy. In the Early College Academy, students were able to earn 42 college hours while still being able to participate in school sports, Fine Arts, Agriculture, and student clubs. Under his leadership, CHHS also offered other students the opportunity to earn career-ready certifications, as well as challenge 12 hours of college credit regardless of program of study.
Student-driven interest was very important to Mr. Ysasi while at CHHS. At the request of students, he and his administration developed new groups, including a skeet shooting team, a fishing team, and a rodeo team. Moreover, to help students connect with their school, every student took The Clifton Strengths Finder Test; doing so helped students identify their strengths, starting their freshman year.
“I have a firm belief that every single student can achieve at high levels regardless of whether they go straight into a career, college, or the military … regardless of their background or what others or society tells us that we ‘should’ be,” explains Mr. Ysasi.
Throughout his educational career, Mr. Ysasi has held a wide range of responsibilities and has assisted not only in the classroom, but has proudly helped in all areas of the school house – including maintenance, custodial, food service, and bus driving tasks. Mr. Ysasi feels that to be a successful leader, one must be willing to work in any position in the school and to do it well.
Sponsored by the District’s Office of Academic Services’ Department of Elementary Instructional Implementation, the annual spelling competition provides elementary and middle school students with an opportunity to learn new words, sharpen their spelling and vocabulary skills, and vie for the title of the school district’s top speller.
After eight rounds of competition, this year’s competition came to an end when Janay De La Rosa, a fifth grader at Ed Downs Fine Arts Academy, successfully spelled the winning word – winnow (verb, to blow a current of air), earning the first-place honor. Her spelling coach, Jennifer Lopez, was exceptionally proud of her student being named the 2023 Spelling Champion.
Siniya Quesada, a fifth grader at Frank Roberts Elementary, earned second place; her coach was Kristen Moreno. Aaliyah Piñon, a fifth grader at Dr. C.M. Cash Elementary, finished in third place; Elsa Garza was her coach.
San Benito students having competed in the 2023 Spelling Bee were the following:
- Angela G. Leal Elementary – Adriana Huerta, Angelique Patino, Damaris Gamboa;
- Dr. C.M. Cash Elementary – Rashad C. Greenwood, Mario A. Barrera, Aaliyah D. Piñon;
- Dr. Raul Garza, Jr. STEAM Academy – Ethan Muñiz, Liam Fuentes, Esperanza Obregon;
- Ed Downs Fine Arts Academy – Janay De La Rosa, Madelynn Mendoza, Jesus Garcia;
- Frank Roberts Elementary – Samuel Mora, Santiago Mora, Siniya Quesada;
- Fred Booth Elementary – Jose Dana, Roman Gonzalez, Avery Vargas;
- Judge Oscar De La Fuente Elementary – Aubry Hernandez, Arely Arizpe, Jazlyn Montalvo;
- La Encantada Elementary – David Cortez, Carlos Vigil, Gustavo Cortez;
- La Paloma Elementary – Jahziel E. Garcia, Naomi Mendez, Jacob Perez;
- Rangerville Elementary – Jordana Treviño, Harmony Flores, Jazmyn Ortiz;
- Sullivan Environmental Science Academy – Christina Treviño, Arianna Moreno, Isabella Saldivar;
- Berta Cabaza Middle School – Sebastian Saldivar, Lea Alvarado;
- Miller Jordan Middle School – Michelle Raya, Jiovanni Luna;
- Riverside Middle School – Janessa Alvarado, Alize Limon, and Xavier Rodriguez.
As the local Spelling Champion, De La Rosa will now represent the school district at the 35th Annual Rio Grande Valley Regional Spelling Bee on Saturday, March 4.
“I am very proud of all our district Spelling Bee participants for their commitment and dedication. I look forward to seeing Janay represent San Benito at the regional spelling competition,” said Director of Elementary Instructional Implementation Dilia Cornett.
According to Cornett, not only does a Spelling Bee contest allow contestants to engage in healthy competition, it also empowers students to develop self-confidence, better their public speaking skills, and increase their ability to do their best under pressure.
The November 2022 Gold Standard honorees are the following District employees:
- Cynthia Aragon, secretary for the Bilingual/ESL Program (non-campus based employee category);
- Elsa Belinda Luna, second grade teacher at Rangerville Elementary (campus-based professional category); and
- Ruby Marie Olivarez, police officer at Fred Booth Elementary (campus-based non-professional category).
The “Gold Standard Employee” Recognition Program serves to recognize and highlight employees who offer great service to both our external and internal customers. Recognition is based on campus/department nominations that are reviewed and scored by a district-level selection committee.
Gold standard employee Cynthia Aragon, secretary for the Bilingual/ESL Program, is pictured with Director of Bilingual Education Ema B. Gonzalez
Gold standard employee Elsa Belinda Luna, second grade teacher at Rangerville Elementary, is pictured with (from left) are Assistant Principal Virginia Romero, Chief Academic Officer Nneka McGee, Principal Julie Aguilera, Director of Communications Isabel González, Chief Financial Officer Monica Mata, and Executive Director of Administrative Services Abraham Gallegos
Gold standard employee Ruby Marie Olivarez, police officer at Fred Booth Elementary, is pictured with (from left) Principal Gabrielle Ocumarez and SBCISD Police Chief Juan Sosa.
San Benito community and stakeholders,
San Benito CISD previously provided public notice that a local electronics recycler, RDA Technologies, purchased computer devices from the District that may have contained historical data of the District. When the District learned of this, it reached out to RDA Technologies in an effort to reacquire the involved devices and determine what information, if any, is contained on the devices.
When David Avila, co-owner of RDA Technologies, initially met with key District administrators, he offered to enter into a contract with the District that encompassed the following:
- Signing a non-disclosure agreement with the District,
- Taking possession of the District’s inventory of old surplus computers – at no charge to RDA Technologies,
- Wiping clean the hard drives of said computers,
- Compensating the District approximately $3-5 per cleaned computer, and
- Allowing RDA Technologies to sell the cleaned computers for profit.
As per Mr. Avila, this contract would be comparable to ones that he has with two other governmental entities in Cameron County.
Despite multiple efforts to come to a reasonable resolution with RDA Technologies, the District has not been able to independently corroborate any of the allegations of the presence of sensitive personal information on these devices.
Even though the District is not in possession of information to substantiate that any sensitive personal information was on the devices, in order to inform the public, on December 7, 2022, the District reported the incident to The Valley Morning Star and posted notice on its website, which provides information about the incident and recommendations on preventative steps that its community may consider taking. This information may be found at: https://www.sbcisd.net/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=3521596&type=d&pREC_ID=2396486.
In direct response to the news story (“Computers containing personal information of staff, students from SBCISD sold at auction”) released by KRGV earlier this week, San Benito CISD is hereby releasing redacted copies of all correspondence* exchanged directly with Mr. Avila. As clearly reflected in these documents, San Benito CISD reached out to RDA Technologies through its cybersecurity counsel, Lynn Sessions of BakerHostetler, in an effort to determine what information, if any, is contained on the devices purchased by RDA Technologies.
For several weeks, Mr. Avila repeatedly refused to provide additional details to the District regarding the information allegedly contained on the purchased devices so the District attempted to reacquire the laptops and CPUs to conduct its own analysis. To that end, the District initially offered to repurchase the devices for the same price paid by RDA Technologies during the online auction; however, Mr. Avila rejected the District’s proposed solution and suggested that the District refer to RDA Technologies’ website to obtain “the prices…based on the model & specs as listed on [RDA Technologies’] webpage with similar computers.”
To calculate RDA Technologies’ purported counteroffer, the District consulted RDA Technologies’ website as instructed by Mr. Avila, and on December 6, 2022, requested confirmation of the total estimated cost proposed by RDA Technologies. Mr. Avila indicated that it was “much lower” than what the District referenced in its letter; however, it was not until January 2, 2023, that Mr. Avila issued a specific monetary demand of $99,579.04 for only a portion of the laptops and computers that he purchased—notably three times the amount originally paid by RDA Technologies.
KRGV reported an entirely false narrative that the District offered to pay “more than triple of what Avila originally paid for the computers.” KRGV also stated that RDA Technologies allowed access to at least one reporter to view the contents of the involved devices.
As the District has repeatedly reported, RDA Technologies has not afforded the same opportunity to the District to conduct an adequate review of the devices that were purchased. After RDA Technologies contacted the District claiming that the computer devices contained historical data, the District sent representatives to RDA Technologies. At that time, RDA Technologies only permitted District personnel to briefly review two devices, neither of which contained any sensitive personal information. Moreover, the representations personally made by Mr. Avila did not include reference to any sensitive personal information being resident on the purchased devices.
The District has also reported this matter, as well as the conduct of RDA Technologies, to the Consumer Protection Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
Unless and until the District is able to conduct a thorough analysis of the devices purchased by RDA Technologies and identify the specific individuals whose sensitive personal information may be involved so appropriate services can be offered to those individuals, any publicized assertion that the sensitive personal information of District employees or students would be misleading and irresponsible.
Superintendent of Schools
This year’s celebratory theme – “Forward, Together.” – highlights the collaboration among district and school leadership, teachers, and parents on behalf of their students.
“Recognizing the efforts of our volunteer school board is so important because of all the hard work and time they dedicate to making our district a success,” said Superintendent of Schools Theresa Servellon.
The following San Benito school board trustees are being recognized districtwide and by individual campuses for their willingness to serve as advocates for local children and public schools:
- Ramiro M. Moreno, President;
- Mario Silva, Vice-President;
- Oscar Medrano, Secretary;
- Rudy Corona, Trustee;
- Dr. Ariel Cruz, Trustee;
- Frutoso M. Gomez, Jr., Trustee; and
- Orlando López, Trustee.
Dan Troxell, executive director of the Texas Association of School Boards, applauded the efforts of more than 7,000 school board members. statewide in providing leadership and good governance so that school districts can focus on educating the 5.4 million public school children in their care. “Texas school boards are critical to the success of students and the future of Texas. They are volunteers who serve for the betterment of their local schools and communities.,” Troxell said.
“Boards lead their districts in the right direction, providing oversight, setting goals, adopting policies, and approving multi-million dollar budgets,” he added.
Board service is a volunteer effort, accepted by only a few in the community. It is a critically important responsibility that takes time and careful decision-making.
“Our school boards are essential to the state’s public education system. Celebrating School Board Recognition Month is one way to say ‘thank you’ for all they do,” added Servellon.
Trustees, thank you for your commitment to the continual success of San Benito students and staff, schools, and district. Your leadership is greatly appreciated.
San Benito CISD | A Message to the San Benito CISD Community and Stakeholders from Superintendent of Schools Theresa Servellon:
San Benito CISD community and stakeholders,
During our Curriculum Committee* meeting of Tuesday, January 10, 2022, the District shared further details regarding the cybersecurity incident. The information was distributed to all SBCISD staff and presented at the Superintendent’s Advisory Council meeting. In the spirit of transparency, the District will communicate the details regarding the incident with the San Benito Community.
As previously reported, the District and its key administrators first learned of the cybersecurity incident on November 1, 2022, when the Region One Educational Service Center informed SBCISD that sophisticated cybercriminals had allegedly gained unauthorized access to the District’s servers.
The District immediately initiated its incident response plan and engaged outside cybersecurity experts to assist in its response and conduct an investigation. The external cybersecurity experts engaged included privacy counsel, digital forensics, and incident response service providers. The following SBCISD staff/departments were engaged and notified of the cybersecurity incident: the superintendent, district’s legal counsel, technology, public relations, finance, human resources, PEIMS, and Police Department. External agencies that were notified/involved included the Department of Information Resources (DIR), the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the San Benito CISD Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the United States Secret Service (USSS), and the Texas Attorney General.
The investigation was conducted between November 4 and December 16, 2022, and determined that an unauthorized party gained access to the District’s network and took certain files from the District’s servers prior to November 1. Upon the conclusion of the investigation, it was determined that unauthorized cybercriminals intermittently accessed our network between April 8, 2022 and October 10, 2022.
Through the digital forensic investigation, it was also determined that on May 3, 2022, the threat actor (international hacker) had sent an electronic message entitled “Your network has been attacked” to select District employees. One employee read the suspicious message early that morning and forwarded it to the Technology Director; said E-mail was immediately pulled from the recipients’ mailboxes, the links within the E-mail were blocked, and the sender was blocked. The reported suspicious E-mail message and/or actions taken thereafter were not reported to the superintendent or other key administrators.
After conducting a labor-intensive data review of the involved files, the District began mailing notification letters directly to individuals whose personal information was identified within those files. Though the legal notification deadline was not until February 14, 2023, on December 30, 2022, a total of 21,653 letters were mailed to the last-known addresses of the involved individuals. The notice mailed provided information in both English and Spanish and explained how the incident happened, the measures the District has taken and details of the information found in the files during the data review, and additional steps individuals may consider taking in response.
The notice letters provided the telephone number to a dedicated helpline where individuals can call to ask questions about the incident; information on Experian’s IdentityWorks – a one-year membership for identity theft protection and fraud protection as well as instructions on how to activate the service, and information on how to reach Experian if the individual believes there was fraudulent use of their information and would like to discuss how they may be able to resolve those issues; and assistance from district administration to answer any questions.
SBCISD has taken additional security measures, but are not limited to enhancing authentication methods, deploying an endpoint detection and response tool in addition to our existing anti-virus protection, decommissioning involved servers, streamlining user permissions, and continued training for our employees on recognizing and preventing cybersecurity threats.
Superintendent of Schools
* Curriculum Committee Meeting | Advance to the 43:45 time mark:
The “Cybersecurity Incident Report” presented by Leonila “Lee” Peña, Executive Director of Student Support Services, to our Board of Trustees during last night’s Curriculum Committee meeting is hereby being provided to the community.
Once processed digitally, the video production of said meeting will be uploaded to the following websites:
Be assured that San Benito CISD remains committed to protecting the confidentiality and security of the personal information it maintains. To help prevent another incident from occurring, the District has worked with outside experts who have advised on enhanced security measures, which the District has implemented to further strengthen the security of its network.
San Benito Cybersecurity Incident Report Powerpoint Presentation
January 9, 2023 12:48 PM
This past Saturday, members of our Greyhound Chorale competed in the final Area round of the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) All-State Auditions. This year, the following four students (from left) were accepted into the Texas All-State Choir and have been named All-State Vocalists – a coveted and highly esteemed honor among Texas high school vocalists:
- Romel San Pedro – 10th grade, Bass 1;
- Leyah Juarez – 11th grade, Alto 1;
- Romaldo Abrego – 12th grade, Tenor 2; and
- David Ysaguirre – 11th grade, Tenor 2.
The honorees will now perform as part of the All-State Choir Concert during the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) Convention on Saturday, February 11, 2023 in San Antonio.
All-State vocalists are chosen for this prestigious honor through a competitive process sponsored by TMEA and held throughout the academic year across the state at District, Region, and Area levels.
This is the most All-State Vocalists that San Benito has ever had in a single year! It is a historic achievement for the San Benito chorale program as it is the most prestigious accolade that a music student can attain in the state of Texas.
“We have had an unprecedented amount of success this school year. I am thankful for everyone’s continued support of our choral program,” said Eradio Martinez, Director of Choirs for San Benito CISD.
San Benito CISD | A Message to the San Benito CISD Community and Stakeholders from Superintendent of Schools Theresa Servellon
San Benito CISD community and stakeholders,
In the spirit of transparency, the following is a detailed overview of the recent cybersecurity incident that impacted certain District stakeholders.
On November 1, 2022, the Texas Education Agency, through the Region One Educational Service Center’s Cybersecurity Department, informed San Benito CISD that sophisticated cybercriminals had allegedly gained unauthorized access to the District’s servers based upon San Benito CISD’s name appearing as a victim on the cybercriminals’ website on the dark web.
The District immediately initiated its incident response plan and engaged outside cybersecurity experts to assist in its response and conduct an investigation. The District also reported the incident to the Texas Department of Information Resources Cyber Security via their hotline.
The investigation was conducted between November 4 and December 16, 2022, and determined that an unauthorized party gained access to the District’s network and took certain files from the District’s servers prior to November 1st. During this time, our Technology Department conducted a thorough and exhaustive review of those involved files to identify each person, the information specific to each person included, and to locate each person’s contact information to notify them of the incident. In addition, the District developed bilingual notification letters and established a dedicated helpline where involved individuals can call to ask questions about the incident. On December 30, 2022, a total of 21,653 letters were mailed to the last-known addresses of the involved individuals (of which 12,080 were minors). Said letters provided additional information about the incident and specific instructions for activating the free, one-year membership to identity monitoring services offered by the District through Experian.
The investigation and notification preparations were time and labor-intensive efforts as the District wanted to ensure that each involved individual was identified and notified as quickly as possible – without needlessly alarming people whose information was not involved.
If you suspect you may have erroneously received a letter, or perhaps received one intended for another individual, we respectfully request that you mark the letter as “wrong address” and return the letter to the return address listed on the letter. You may also drop off the letter at the John F. Barron Administration Building, located at 240 N. Crockett St.
San Benito CISD remains committed to protecting the confidentiality and security of the personal information it maintains. To help prevent another incident from occurring, the District has worked with outside experts who have advised on enhanced security measures, which the District has implemented to further strengthen the security of its network.
Superintendent of Schools
Cybersecurity Incident Letter (PDF)
January 4, 2023 10:35 AM
San Benito CISD recently concluded an investigation into an incident involving unauthorized access to certain devices within our network. When we became aware of the incident, we immediately took affirmative steps to address the issue and began working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”).
To assist with our response to the incident, we engaged outside cybersecurity experts to advise and conduct a thorough investigation. The investigation determined that an unauthorized party intermittently accessed our network as well as a limited number of employee email accounts and took certain files from our servers.
The District has arranged for affected individuals to receive a complimentary, one-year membership of Experian’s® IdentityWorksSM. This product helps detect possible misuse of your personal information and provides you with identity protection services focused on identification and resolution of identity theft.
Due to the complexity and sophistication of these types of incidents, this investigation and notification preparation took time and was a labor-intensive process. The District mailed letters to identified individuals on December 30th. This timing is in line with Texas state law, which allows an entity that falls victim to these types of attacks 60 days to investigate and notify individuals and the Attorney General’s office. The District not only wanted to fulfill its legal obligations but also to ensure that any information provided to the public is truthful, accurate, and does not needlessly alarm people whose information was not involved.
At the same time, the District has been working with the FBI and the Texas Attorney General. In addition, the District has responded to multiple requests for information from the Cameron County DA and advised the DA, from the first contact, that the District has been actively working to notify affected individuals.
While the District has been diligently working to notify individuals with due care, several misleading and false allegations have been made, including fictitious claims raised by the District’s Technology Director, Todd English.
On December 21, 2022, Mr. English’s lawyer advised local media that Mr. English was placed on paid administrative leave on November 15, 2022. Mr. English responded by filing an employee grievance against the District, which nonsensically implies that he was “retaliated against” for reporting the incident to Chief Juan Sosa of the San Benito CISD Police Department. As a matter of policy, the District generally does not provide specific information regarding personnel matters; however, given that Mr. English has shared his grievance publicly, the District feels compelled to unequivocally state that his fabricated accusations are wholly untrue and meritless.
The District would also like to take this opportunity to dispel certain inaccuracies within articles published by Mr. Fernando Del Valle of the Valley Morning Star (“VMS”) regarding this matter.
An article posted by the VMS on December 20, 2022, contained a misleading headline stating that “DA Forces San Benito Schools to notify victims of … data breach …” and went on to conclude that the District “refused” to disclose the situation or follow the law until the DA intervened. These implications are completely incorrect and under the circumstances, irresponsible. The District advised the DA and the VMS in writing that the District had already been thoughtfully working to directly notify individuals whose information was involved long before this matter came to the attention of the DA’s Office. Once the DA made an announcement, the District promptly followed up with confirmation of the situation and stated that notification to involved individuals was imminent.
The idea that the District was “forced” to make a full disclosure is simply false; we advised the DA’s Office that it would occur well within the required timeframes. We agree that affected persons should be notified as early as possible, but first we had to determine who that is so that unaffected persons don’t get the wrong impression or, as stated above, that any information provided to the public not needlessly alarm people whose information was not involved.
Another article from Mr. Del Valle dated December 19, 2022, contained a headline stating that the FBI is investigating a “San Benito CISD technology breach.” To clarify that situation, at the District’s request, the District’s technology security consultant is assisting with the FBI’s investigation into the external threat actor responsible for the cyberattack. The FBI is not investigating the District or its response efforts.
San Benito CISD and certain members of its community have been subjected to a sophisticated cyberattack. We have taken the situation very seriously. It has been priority No. 1 for us since we became aware of the incident in November. Following the advice of experts who do this every day, we planned to announce the incident and directly notify individuals when we could determine whose information was involved and whose was not, and in accordance with the law. Any implication that we did not intend to disclose is simply untrue. It is unfortunate that, in the midst of diligent response efforts premised on communicating to our citizens that we are doing everything possible on their behalf, the community has received inaccurate reports.
If you received a receipt (letter) of the data security incident and have any questions, please contact the Kroll Call Center at (855) 624-3052. Their hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Kroll Call Center information is also listed on the letters regarding the cybersecurity incident.
Theresa Servellon, Superintendent of Schools
The training was conducted by several members of the Cameron County SWAT Team. The students also participated in an educational tour of the Carrizales-Rucker Detention Center booking area. The students were briefed on topics such as booking and jail management systems as well as on the intake and release operations process.
According to San Benito High School Law Enforcement teacher Lizette M. Lucio, these types of opportunities guided by community law enforcement professionals allow students to learn hands on about their Career Pathway. Both Lucio and her students were grateful to Cameron County Sheriff Eric Garza for the “awesome” opportunity.
The San Benito Consolidated Independent School District is hereby confirming that Gilbert Galvan, San Benito High School Principal, is currently on paid administrative leave.
Amy Rodriguez is currently overseeing the day-to-day administration of San Benito High School.
Mrs. Rodriguez’ experience with San Benito CISD includes the following: Physics/Biology teacher, 3 years; Dean of Instruction, 6 years; Assistant Principal for the Early College Academy, 2 years; Principal, 3 years. She went on to serve in the roles of campus Principal and Director of Career and Technical Education with South San Antonio ISD. She recently returned to San Benito and is currently the Director of Secondary Instructional Implementation.
Mrs. Rodriguez will work collaboratively with SBHS Assistant Principals to ensure that students and staff continue receiving the educational and administrative support, respectively, as deemed essential for the continued success of our students and district.
It is important to note that the District does not comment on personnel matters. Therefore, no additional information will be released regarding Mr. Galvan’s employment status.
December 9, 2022 4:25 PM
As it begins preparing for the next academic year, the District is now accepting applications for the following INICIO Academies:
- Dr. Raul Garza, Jr. STEAM Academy
- Ed Downs Fine Arts Academy
- Sullivan Environmental Science Academy
- Greyhounds Online (GO) Academy
- Global Leadership Academy – NEW!
- Collegiate Academy – NEW!
The new Global Leadership Academy will serve students in grades 1 through 5 and engage them in project-based learning experiences designed for exposure to global connections that celebrate humanity and the cultures defining our unique existence.
The new Collegiate Academy will offer an advanced curriculum for students in grades 6 through 8 that engages them in a rigorous, advanced curriculum designed to promote necessary critical and complex thinking skills in preparation for success in college and beyond.
Each of our INICIO Academies are designed with classic principles steeped in concept-based learning and innovative practices that promote student achievement and provide opportunities to build capacity for excellence districtwide.
For more information and/or to apply for admission to one of the six INICIO Academies, visit www.inicioacademies.org. The application deadline is Friday, January 20, 2023.
Jana K. Landrum Auxiliary Facilities Parking Lot Project - PDF
December 9, 2022 at 3:46 PM
“The conference afforded me the opportunity to collaborate with various law enforcement agencies and educators regarding student safety trends from active threats to mental health. The opportunity to participate in the Advance Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) provided me with resources that will be of benefit to our SBCISD community,” explained Flores.
During the conference, Flores was certified as an ALERRT Civilian Response and Casualty Care (CRCC) Train-the-Trainer. As an instructor, he will have the ability to educate the community on ways to improve safety and survivability of victims of active attacks and mass shooting events through an introduction to the following: Stop the Bleed, “Run, Hide, and Fight” strategies, and first responder response.
Topics covered during the 3-day event included:
- School Safety: A National Perspective,
- Assessing the Threats: Security & Safety Risk Assessment in Campuses,
- Reviewing Campus Security Infrastructure,
- Creating Solid Yet Flexible Emergency Response Plans,
- Emergency Management Team,
- Testing Your Emergency Response Plans,
- Crisis Communication,
- Lockdowns, and
- Recovering From A Crisis.
During the conference, special workshops examined the latest community resources to fight teenage suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, and aggressive driving among high school and college students. Tabletop exercises, skillfully moderated by risk communicators, encouraged extended audience participation and explored effective methods of communication, coordination and collaboration at the local level.
The ALERRT Center at Texas State University was created in 2002 as a partnership between Texas State University, the San Marcos, Texas Police Department and the Hays County, Texas Sheriff’s Office to address the need for active shooter response training for first responders. In 2013, ALERRT at Texas State was named the National Standard in Active Shooter Response Training by the FBI.
December 2, 2022 2:38 PM
San Benito CISD is proudly reimagining choice education as it begins accepting applications for the two new choice schools set to open during the 2023-2024 school year.
The Global Leadership Academy will serve students in grades 1 through 5 and engage them in project-based learning experiences designed for exposure to global connections that celebrate humanity and the cultures defining our unique existence.
The Collegiate Academy will offer an advanced curriculum for students in grades 6 through 8 that engages them in a rigorous, advanced curriculum designed to promote necessary critical and complex thinking skills in preparation for success in college and beyond.
According to Dr. Nneka McGee, Chief Academic Officer for San Benito Schools, the District is reimagining choice education through an in-district network of schools designed with classic principles steeped in concept-based learning and innovative practices that promote student achievement.
To APPLY for admission to the INICIO Academies for the 2023-2024 academic year, click here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScFphlgJEcrFkxXTYQHvTAc7LOPeO1uYI6w1in-H9-RIZkJSg/viewform?mibextid=Zxz2cZ
December 2, 2022 2:27 PM
Campus and district administrators have been conducting Learning Walk protocols at campuses districtwide.
A Learning Walk is a brief classroom visit that utilizes a researched-based tool that provides principals and teachers the opportunity to reflect on what students are learning, learning strategies, student interaction with the content, and student engagement.
Superintendent of School Theresa Servellon participated in the Berta Cabaza Middle School’s debrief of a Learning Walk that focused on critical writing. The purposeful small group discussions have proven instrumental in the Learning Walk process.
At San Benito Schools, we continue to learn and grow together!
December 2, 2022 2:21 PM
In partnership with the Texas A&M University College of Engineering, the Texas High School Aerospace Scholars Program is a unique Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) learning opportunity for Texas high school juniors to engage with the mission of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Principal Gilbert Galvan, far right, proudly announces that the following San Benito High School students have been selected to participate in Aerospace Scholars Program:
- James Cowan,
- Bryan Segura,
- Luke Ybarra,
- Alberto Naranjo,
- Christopher Francisco,
- Leanna Acosta,
- Jaylynn Marquez,
- Laura Castillo,
- Beatrice Villarreal,
- Estella Lopez, and
- Rita Alonso (not pictured).
During the school year, the aerospace scholars will participate interactive lessons on NASA activities related to space exploration, earth science, technology and aeronautics. They will also participate in virtua
The Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station's High School Aerospace Scholars Program serves to encourage today’s students to become the engineers, scientists, researchers and innovators of tomorrow. The Program offers a one-of-a-kind experience for Texas high school students to explore the possibilities of a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related academic majors and/or careers.
This phenomenal partnership is one of many steps in the District’s mission to provide a premier education for all students, through a positive and safe learning environment, so that its graduates are college, career, military, and workforce ready.
San Benito CISD is excited to announce the completion of the new tennis courts at Riverside Middle School.
November 18, 2022 4:34 PM
During the regular meeting of November 15, the San Benito CISD Board of Trustees approved the Office of Academics’ proposal for two choice schools to open during the 2023-2024 school year.
The Global Leadership Academy, to be housed at Fred Booth Elementary, will serve students in grades 1 through 5. Students will engage in project-based learning experiences designed for exposure to global connections that celebrate humanity and the cultures defining our unique existence.
The Collegiate Academy, whose home will be San Benito Veterans Memorial Academy, will offer an advanced curriculum for students in grades 6 through 8. Collegiate Academy middle school students will engage in a rigorous, advanced middle school curriculum designed to promote necessary critical and complex thinking skills in preparation for success in college and beyond.
The new choice schools are part of the INICIO Academies initiative that represents a renewed commitment to students. We invite parents to join us during a Facebook Live information session at 6:00 PM on Tuesday, November 29, 2022, on the San Benito CISD (@sbcisd) Facebook page.
The application window for the new academies will open on Tuesday, November 29, 2022.
San Benito CISD Police Chief Juan Sosa and Safety Coordinator Rene Flores, Jr. recently attended an active shooter exercise development workshop hosted by the Region One Education Service Center and Texas A&M University Extension Services. Upon completion, Chief Sosa and Flores were certified on this “train-the-trainer” course.
The Active Shooter Exercise Development Workshop is a course designed for individuals who may be responsible for developing and delivering active shooter tabletop exercises. Past events have demonstrated that a key point to effective whole community preparation includes coordination across all professional disciplines that have responsibilities in the event of an active shooter incident.
Workshop participants represented agencies that include, but are not limited to:
- Law enforcement,
- Emergency Medical Services (EMS),
- Elected and appointed officials,
- Entertainment venues,
- Assisted living facilities,
- Travel industry,
- Healthcare, and
- Retail shopping centers.
“We will utilize this training to implement a district mock drill situation pertaining to hazmat and active shooter scenarios in order to better prepare the District’s emergency response through a collaboration of a multi-agency approach,” he added.
November 18, 2022 3:23 PM
The San Benito Greyhounds are headed to the Regional semifinals!
After earning the Area championship by defeating the San Antonio Taft Raiders 38-19, the Mighty Greyhounds will now go up against either the Austin Westlake Chaparrals or the New Braunfels Unicorns – depending on the outcome of their playoff matchup later tonight. At this time, all game logistics are still pending. Know that OFFICIAL game details will be posted on the Greyhound Nation (@GreyhoundNation) Facebook page.
For the 2022 UIL Conference 6A Division 1 Region 4 Texas Football State Championship playoff bracket, click here: www.uiltexas.org/football/playoff-brackets/6AD1 (scroll to the lower, right side of the webpage).
SYSTEMS: Proposed Academies to offer additional choice to San Benito families
By Office of Academic Services Staff
November 11, 2022 2:56 PM
During the Curriculum Committee meeting of Thursday, November 10, 2022, the Office of Academics presented to the San Benito CISD Board of Trustees a proposal for two choice schools. If approved, the new academies will open during the 2023-2024 school year.
The Global Leadership Academy is a proposed elementary school serving students in grades 1 through 5 and will be located at the Fred Booth Elementary campus. Principal Gabrielle Ocumarez stated she is excited about the opportunity to bring additional choices to her campus.
The Collegiate Academy is a proposed middle school offering an advanced curriculum for students in grades 6 through 8. San Benito Veterans Memorial Academy is the proposed location for the new middle school. Superintendent of Schools Theresa Servellon noted that students will be able to earn college credits while engaging in rich, project-based learning experiences.
The proposed elementary and middle school choice academies are part of the INICIO Academies initiative. “We are reimagining choice education through an in-district network of schools designed with classic principles steeped in concept-based learning and innovative practices that promote student achievement and provide opportunities to build capacity for excellence in all schools districtwide,” stated Nneka McGee, Chief Academic Officer for San Benito CISD.
To learn more about INICIO Academies, view the Curriculum Committee presentation (https://youtu.be/fIbTsbbAlNg – advance to the 7:50 mark)
In the District’s continued commitment to transparency, the Human Resources department recently distributed a 2022-2023 salary letter to each full-time employee.
The salary letter provides employees the opportunity to review demographic information, their salary/hourly rate, stipends, insurance deductions, and time-off balances.
Abraham Gallegos, Executive Director of Administrative Services, explained, “Employees have access to their check stubs, assignments, and W-2’s; however, many employees do not log in to our financial system. This distribution method allows full-time employees a chance to review their job and compensation information, District benefits, deductions, and time-off balances.”
Employees should email to [email protected] all questions regarding the information provided in their respective salary letter.
In effort to implement the recommendations from the recent forensic audit, District administrators will continue to train staff and the school board on finance-related matters. This will ensure the district maximizes taxpayer dollars.
Moving forward, the District will revisit the audit recommendations and continue to retool processes that will better serve our school community.