By Andy Sevilla
An offer of free tutoring from a Texas State professor with decades of mariachi experience was declined by Lehman High Principal Michelle Chae, according to Mariachi Booster Club President Daphne Tenorio. That appears to be just one of the complaints Tenorio lodged against the principal, the new mariachi director and the overall hiring process.
District officials contend they are following policies and the final say on teacher hiring comes from the principal and the hiring committee.
This summer, the Lehman High mariachi program sought a new director. Among those in the running were instructors with decades of professional and competitive mariachi experience, Tenorio said. She requested a spot on the mariachi director hiring committee, saying her interest was to provide the best of resources for the mariachi students, one of whom is her son.
Tenorio, who is married to Hays CISD school board member Willie Tenorio, said, as the mariachi booster club president, she is working on behalf of all 400 high school and middle school mariachi students.
Tenorio said Joey Lucita, Lehman High band director, told her she could not participate in the hiring committee; a policy is now in place disallowing parents on hiring committees.
“Which irritated me to no end, only because this has been precedent for many, many years,” she said.
Tenorio said the district ultimately hired Joseph Baird, a University of Texas graduate with a Master’s degree in music, specializing in tuba. Through an open records request, she found Baird was the symphony orchestra director at Austin Independent School District. She said he claimed eight years of mariachi experience through AISD, though none of it competitive.
Baird had no professional or competitive mariachi experience, according to Tenorio. That seems to be the crux of the problem: Tenorio said she was not satisfied with the hiring decision, because Baird did not have competitive Mariachi experience. It’s her belief that the district hired him to assist with the band program, not just mariachi.
Other candidates for the position, in her opinion, were better qualified. Tenorio said $80,000 in scholarships are at stake for Lehman mariachi students.
“My motivation for all of this is to get the best person for the job,” Tenorio said. She personally knows one of the other candidates who interviewed for the position, but said she wasn’t aware he was applying for the job until after the fact.
Following Baird’s selection, Tenorio wrote a lengthy criticism of the hiring process, Baird’s lack of experience and Chae’s decision making skills, which she posted on the booster club’s Facebook page.
It said, “So disappointed in the selection of our new Lehman High School Mariachi Director.” It continued, “We are looking at losing a minimum of two years at a competitive level because of a poor hire by the principal of Lehman High school!”
In a second post, she wrote, “I tried to correct this without bringing it to the public attention but if the district isn’t going to do something…we parents will have to organize and get it corrected for our kids!”
While the posts were ultimately deleted, the same posts appeared on Tenorio’s personal Facebook page. They, too, came down.
Tenorio said she disagreed with the hiring of Baird only because he had no mariachi instructor and competition experience.
Baird’s perceived inexperience still remains an issue with Tenorio. Therefore, she negotiated free help from Texas State Associate Professor John A. Lopez, who also serves as the coordinator for Latin Music Studies at the university. She said he offered to coach Lehman High School mariachi students – for free – at Texas State.
But Hays CISD officials saw it another way.
“Any instruction provided to a school team or group would be coordinated through the coach or instructor, not the booster club,” Hays CISD spokesperson Tim Savoy said. “Booster clubs exist to support the organization or team they represent by supporting the leadership of the coaches.”
Supporting the leadership of the coaches may be at the core of the issue.
When speaking with Baird, Tenorio said he indicated support for Lopez’s help. He then told her Chae didn’t approve the competitive-level coaching.
Savoy said he didn’t have specifics on the issue.
“What I can tell you is that the Mariachi director is the instructional leader of the program. The principal is the instructional leader of the campus. They make decisions daily regarding what they believe to be in the best interest of the students.”
The best interest of the students is why Tenorio said she protested.
“I’m beyond disappointed with this process,” Tenorio said, adding the district’s hiring process sends up red flags. “… If this can happen in this program, it can happen in any.”
Willie Tenorio raised the mariachi position hiring process during a school board meeting; board members have no say in the hiring decisions at that level. Daphne Tenorio did not believe her husband did anything wrong by escalating the issue to the board level.
For the district, any “group after school practice would have to be approved and endorsed by the instructor in accordance with UIL [University Interscholastic League] rules and restrictions (if any apply),” Savoy said. “Additionally, the district would have an obligation to [e]nsure the person teaching the outside lessons completed the necessary background checks for employees or volunteers and was familiar with the applicable school district policies and procedures.”
Outside of these rules, Savoy said parents and students could simply, on their own time, participate in individual, private lessons.