Coastal Bend College trustees voted to terminate embattled president Dr. Beatriz Espinoza by a 4-3 vote Thursday night.
Espinoza is on paid administrative leave as the termination process begins.
The decision to terminate Espinoza comes a year after an investigation into the grade changes, and other issues, by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, an investigation prompted by the college’s former interim Vice President of Instruction and Economic Development Dr. Matilda Saenz.
Saenz filed 27 grievances against the college, among them, accusing school administrators of fraud for changing grades for hundreds of nursing students without proper faculty consent. Three nursing instructors were fired or resigned. She further accused Espinoza of nepotism for hiring her sister Julia Garcia as site director of the college’s Pleasanton campus.
But after bringing the grade changes to the attention of the CBC’s Board of Trustees, Saenz was fired in August 2018, just days before her contract was due to expire. The college said she had violated student privacy protected by FERPA, a federal privacy law intended to protect students educational records.
The Coordinating Board’s investigation found that there was a ‘significant weakness’ in the CBC’s process to make grade changes because the college did not have a ‘standard procedure’ in place to make changes.
In a January meeting to discuss the results of their investigation, the Coordinating Board noted that school staff told auditors conducting the investigation, that they felt intimidated and threatened with losing their job if they were found to have been proving information or cooperating with the investigation.
Saenz had been outspoken all along about a ‘culture of fear and intimidation’ that she felt existed at the school. Faculty and students told similar stories to the Troubleshooters.
Espinoza and the school’s Director of Marketing Bernie Saenz released a video attacking our reports as inaccurate and without merit.
The Coordinating Board investigated costs associated to the Nursing Shortage Reduction Program grant and, according to their report, found “substantial noncompliance.” The college is being asked to refund $260,287 because the grant was not administered correctly in 2016 and 2017.
The state’s investigation further found ‘substantial noncompliance’ associated with the Perkins grant. The agency asked the CBC to refund $182,000.00. The school has refunded both amounts.
In evaluating the investigation carried out by THECB’s Director of Audit and Internal Compliance , Mark Poehl(Pale), Commissioner Raymond Paredes told Espinoza in January, “I take it very seriously when he said to me, as he said to the board, that in 30 years of practicing he has not seen circumstances as troubling as this one.”