EducationJudicialLocal NewsRound Rock ISD Trustee Sues Embattled Superintendent Reinstated Against Investigator Recommendation

Trustee Mary Bone has sued Superintendent Hafedh Azaiez, claiming the district is investigating another trustee without legal approval.
June 14, 2022
Longstanding disputes between the two factions of the Round Rock Independent School District (ISD) board of trustees continue to ramp up.

As the board considers sanctions against members tonight, one trustee has announced plans to resign, another trustee has sued the superintendent, and newly released documents show the district’s hired investigators recommended against the superintendent’s reinstatement.

The school board is generally divided between a pair of more conservative trustees, Danielle Weston (Place 7) and Mary Bone (Place 2), and a group of more liberal trustees, Amber Feller (Place 3), Tiffanie Harrison (Place 6), Amy Weir (Place 5), Jun Xiao (Place 1), and Cory Vessa (Place 4).

Though mask mandates and other political issues consistently divide the board along these lines, a lawsuit Bone filed on June 9 says the deep divide stems from the vote they took to hire Superintendent Hafedh Azaiez a year ago.

Bone and Weston maintain the other five trustees had already chosen Azaiez behind the scenes before the official vote took place in June 2021. The other trustees say Azaiez’s experience as an educator, a 20-year career that began with a job teaching middle school science in Houston ISD, makes him easily qualified for the job.

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However, Bone’s lawsuit primarily regards a decision the board took months after hiring Azaiez.

On December 16, the board voted 4 to 2 to hire an attorney to review some of Weston’s emails regarding her criticism of Azaiez.

Rather than limit their work to a review of Weston’s emails, the law firm that was hired sent invoices regarding an “investigation,” which Bone says would violate the Texas Education Code.

“The board has only authorized an expenditure to [the law firm] for it to analyze whether ‘further investigation is warranted,’ not to conduct an investigation itself. Therefore, any further expenditures for the unauthorized investigation are illegal and must be enjoined,” the lawsuit reads.

Bone found out about the alleged ongoing investigation from invoices sent to the district by the law firm, billing the district thousands of dollars for a “RRISD Investigation.” However, Azaiez had his secretary redact much of the information in the invoices, according to the suit, which includes the redacted invoices attached as exhibits.

The suit cites a piece of state law that grants school board trustees an inherent right of access to district information.

One of Bone’s requests in the suit is for a court order that would require the district to provide an unredacted copy of the invoices.

However, that same state law also explicitly allows school districts to redact certain information, though Bone’s lawsuit claims this exception does not apply.

Bone is also seeking a court order that would cease payments to the law firm for their “investigation.”

Meanwhile, a report made available last week by public information requests from Community Impact and Texas Scorecard shows that the district’s own third-party investigator recommended against reinstating Azaiez.

Weston and Bone issued a press release in August publicizing that a woman claiming to be Azaiez’s mistress told the board he had physically assaulted her. The board declined to meet with her.

Nonetheless, the allegations eventually prompted the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to recommend that the board place Azaiez on leave. In early January, the trustees voted 6 to 1 to accept this recommendation and put the superintendent on leave. Xiao was the lone “nay” vote.

The board later reinstated Azaiez on a 5 to 2 vote on March 24, split along the usual lines. At the time, the board majority, including board secretary Amy Weir, said Travis County had closed the investigations into Azaiez.

“There is not going to be anything coming from Travis County regarding this incident,” Weir said.

However, according to a report submitted earlier that month but publicized last week, the Travis County Sheriff’s Office had two active, ongoing investigations into Azaiez for burglary and assault.

Additionally, the report, conducted by a third-party investigator hired by the district, recommended that the board not reinstate Azaiez.

“I could not come to conclusions regarding the Travis County Sheriff’s Office investigations or the State Board of Educator Certification actions, but the divisiveness created in the community by Dr. Azaiez’s behavior and the lack of Dr. Azaiez to be forthcoming with information has created a failure to establish a positive working relationship with the Board of Trustees,” the investigator wrote.

No criminal charges have been filed against Azaiez.

The board of trustees will meet on the evening of June 14 to consider the possibility of imposing sanctions against all members but one: Xiao, who recently announced that he would step down from the position.

Bone and Weston added the agenda items to consider sanctions against the board majority. Harrison and Weir added the agenda items to consider sanctions against Bone and Weston.

The board will discuss these items in closed session, meaning no vote will take place. The board will only consult with its attorney about the possibility of sanctions.

Previously, Weston and Bone snagged a last-minute court order that blocked the board majority from censuring them and banning them from district property.

Bone’s lawsuit is embedded below.


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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.