EL PASO, Texas (KTSM)– An Ysleta ISD trustee questioned the ethics of a decision made on Wednesday night’s Board of Trustees meeting. The board voted in approval of a contract with active member Shane Haggerty and his services for a robotics competition for students.
District 7 Trustee Kathryn Lucero said despite the levels of transparency, it was still wrong to approve an item where a board member would receive compensation.
The item in question , sought approval to award for materials and services for 2020-
2021 Five Star Innovation GT Competition – Beyond the Classroom to Shane Haggerty in
the amount of $55.00 per student registered to participate, to not exceed $40,000.
The competition will be done 100 percent virtually for GT students grades 4-6. The item states Haggerty would provide the materials and instructions as well as training videos to students in a remote setting. The total fees depend on how many students register to the competition on all levels.
“I believe that because it’s legal, it doesn’t make it ethical,” Lucero said. “I think it could potentially erode public trust.”
Lucero, the lone one to vote against the item on Wednesday, said she doesn’t doubt Haggerty’s passion for the project or how successful it may be for the students, however she voted against the item because she felt it was a conflict of interest.
“We have policies in place that don’t allow us to be employed by the district until the one-year anniversary after our term is up and I believe this conflicts with that certain policy,” Lucero said.
According to YISD, no board policies or local government codes establish a monetary cap on contract bids associated with board members.
YISD only evaluated one other vendor for the robotics services. They offered the service at $300 per student, while Haggerty’s and Five Stars is $55 per student. Lucero said the issue was that there were only two vendors for the school district to evaluate in the first place.
“A board member should not be our only outlet, even with COVID, to provide this much-needed service for our students,” Lucero said.
Haggerty, who abstained from the vote, said since he filed all the required disclosures, he feels it’s all out in the open to the public. He said he chose to bring the contract to the board as an item for approval when typically it’s only required for contracts over $100,000.
“I wanted it to go before the board, I wanted them to know I’m doing this with your permission and they approved it,” Haggerty said.
KTSM checked and found Haggerty has provided services to YISD in the past, before he was elected in April 2020. Trustee Haggerty provided services in 2019 and in 2020 and was paid $1,045 and $20,000, respectively. Both services were provided for Elementary GT students and GT Coordinators to support the GT robotics competition.
As for the robotics competition contract, he said it’s about providing quality opportunities for students, not making a profit.
“If I wanted that I wouldn’t be making a robotics competition and I’m not looking to make any money on this robotics competition, I just want to do what’s best for the kids,” Haggerty said.
He said he actually pays anywhere from $2,000-$5,000 out of his pocket to provide the material because there’s little sponsorship. He said most of the fees are allocated to providing meals for competition judges and providing training material and anything left has gone towards scholarships.
“Western Tech has helped a lot and they helped us give out well over $100,000 in scholarships, close to $300,000 in the past 8 years we’ve been doing competitions,” Haggerty said.
Haggerty said Five Star Innovation started out as a robotics competition he created 8 years ago volunteering with Fort Bliss, which has grown over the years to the international level.
Trustee Lucero said she stands by her vote against the approval.
“I’m surprised that none of my other trustees saw the ethical question to this,” Lucero said. “I reached out to my board president to see if we can amend the policy to align more with the current policy we have as far as employment and I also reached out to Representative Claudia Ordaz-Perez to amend that part of the statute.”