East board backs superintendent

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By David Giuliani

The Las Vegas City Schools board says it has confidence in the district’s superintendent, despite the district attorney’s case against him.

The board released a statement this week in response to parents who have publicly questioned why Superintendent Rick Romero hasn’t been placed on paid administrative leave or let go.

At a meeting last month, parents of victims in the assaults during last year’s football camp asked the board about its reasoning in keeping Romero actively employed. At the time, the board’s president, Phillip Vigil, said the board couldn’t legally discuss personnel matters in public. But board members promised a written statement in response to the public questions.

Romero, Athletic Director Mike Yara, former football coach Ray Woods and two former assistant coaches each face a misdemeanor charge of failure to report child abuse or neglect. Prosecutors allege the men didn’t properly notify authorities as soon as they found out that football players were sodomizing their teammates with broomsticks.

The officials have pleaded not guilty.

The board apparently agreed upon a public statement behind closed doors earlier this week. No vote was taken on it.

“The board has come to the conclusion that the students were the victims of criminal acts by their fellow students and no one else,” reads the board’s statement, which is signed in the name of the board president.

“We have trust and confidence in our superintendent and believe he acted appropriately and timely upon receiving the reports of hazing,” the statement said. “He also acted appropriately and timely in disciplining the students who harmed their fellow students.”

In its statement, the board didn’t give similar backing to Yara, only saying that it would honor Romero’s decision to keep Yara on board as athletic director under his authority under state law. A 2003 law gives nearly all powers of personnel to school superintendents.

The board stated that it was committed to student safety and that it would do everything possible to prevent violence from happening again. It said that it has directed its attorney to make sure it had all information related to the district attorney’s action against the superintendent.

One of the parents of the victims said the board was right to keep Romero actively employed because he didn’t have direct supervision over students. But he said the board should put Yara on leave or move him to another school. Yara was scheduled to become the assistant principal at Memorial Middle School next year, but that transfer may now be on hold.

“The school district seems more concerned with what its legal counsel is saying than truly implementing change. We have seen no attempts at change,” the parent said.

The coaches resigned a couple of weeks after the assaults. Six players were charged with sexual crimes. Santiago Armijo and Jerek Padilla have been convicted.

All of the students received long-term suspensions from the Las Vegas City Schools.