Friday, May 22, 2009



Washington, DC— Superintendent Roel A. Gonzalez of the Rio Grande City, Texas, Consolidated Independent School District, was among five national leaders who received the first-ever Leadership for Healthy Communities’ Healthy Community Leadership Award. The award recognizes outstanding elected and appointed officials representing schools and communities who have implemented innovative policies that can help prevent childhood obesity.

Leadership for Healthy Communities—a $10 million national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that supports state and local policy-makers in their efforts to reduce childhood obesity through policies that promote active living and healthy eating— recognized Superintendent Gonzalez during an awards dinner on the first evening of its second biennial Childhood Obesity Prevention Summit. The summit was held on May 7-8, 2009 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington.

“I am pleased to accept this award on behalf of my colleagues and the 10,000 kids in the Rio Grande City Consolidated Independent School District,” said Superintendent Gonzalez. “It is rewarding for Rio Grande to be recognized for our efforts as it’s always been my philosophy that lessons are not just about reading, writing and math but about living healthy and having long, enjoyable lives.”

While serving a school district in one of the most poverty-stricken areas of the nation, Superintendent Gonzalez created a new school wellness program that revamped lunch and breakfast menus—eliminating unhealthy foods, adding healthier items and ensuring each school has a full-service kitchen—and he added innovative physical activity opportunities. He introduced track meets, pee wee football and other events, and incorporated an evidence-based physical activity curriculum, the Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) program, into the school day.

More than 130 policy-makers from the state, local and school district level joined federal legislators and childhood obesity policy experts as participants in this year’s summit. The summit is designed to help policy leaders advance healthy eating and active living options in their communities. Special emphasis is placed on collaborative policy approaches that address childhood obesity among vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the epidemic.

Chosen from more than 40 nominees representing states, localities and school districts, the other award winners include: Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City; Darwin Hindman, mayor of Columbia, Mo.; Gavin Newsom, mayor of San Francisco; and Claude Ramsey, mayor of Hamilton County, Tenn.

“We are excited to give this award to Superintendent Gonzalez because of his demonstrated commitment to supporting healthy kids and healthy communities,” said Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, Ph.D., director of Leadership for Healthy Communities. “His outstanding efforts in his district represent a shining example that can be replicated by other schools across the country.”
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Friday, May 15, 2009



Washington, D.C. – Congressman Henry Cuellar today joined a bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act. The bill, which cracks down on predatory lending practices and ensures that the mortgage industry follows basic principles of sound lending, responsibility, and consumer protection, passed the U.S. House on a 300-114 vote.

Included in the bill were amendments authored by Congressman Cuellar to study the real-world impact of a major new lending accountability measure and to provide housing counseling in Texas colonias.

“There is no doubt that today’s financial crisis is the result of irresponsible, abusive, and predatory practices in mortgage lending,” said Congressman Cuellar. “This bill is a direct response to the collapse of the housing market, and it will help to rebuild an economy that reflects our values of fairness and responsibility.”

A key provision the bill would require mortgage lenders to retain a 5% stake in the loans that they originate. The measure is intended to address a critical vulnerability in the mortgage market that contributed to the economic collapse.

“In the run-up to the financial crisis, many lenders had no reason to care whether a borrower could afford the payments on their mortgages,” Congressman Cuellar explained. “By the time payments came due, the lender had already pocketed the closing fees, repackaged the debt into securities, and offloaded the risk to someone else.”

Congressman Cuellar amended the bill to require the Government Accountability Office to assess whether the 5% requirement is the appropriate stake to reduce systemic risks, to monitor any shifts in practice by securitizers attempting to evade the new rule, and to recommend to Congress whether additional accountability measures are needed.

“This amendment is all about governing with our eyes open,” Congressman Cuellar said. “Requiring lenders to maintain a stake in their loans is a promising first step. Now we must conduct the oversight needed to ensure that this law is actually protecting homeowners, rebuilding the economy, and preventing this kind of collapse from ever happening again.”

Congressman Cuellar’s second amendment would clarify the mission of the new Office of Housing Counseling in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The original legislation instructed the office to focus on “areas that lack sufficient services”; Congressman Cuellar’s language ensures that colonias are included among these high-priority areas.

“By recognizing the unique economic challenges facing colonias, my amendment ensures that residents have access to the guidance and support that all borrowers need to ensure that they get the best deal possible,” Congressman Cuellar said.

In addition to Congressman Cuellar’s provisions, the bill includes numerous other measures to crack down on predatory practices and promote responsible lending:
·Requires lenders to ensure a borrower's ability to repay, based on income, credit history, indebtedness and other factors.
·Prohibits unfair lending practices, including the bonuses known as "yield spread premiums" that lenders pay to brokers to inflate the cost of loans.
·Brings accountability to the secondary market for home loans by holding participants liable under federal law for ensuring responsible lending
·Imposes penalties for irresponsible lending by making predatory lenders accountable to consumers for rescission of the loan and the consumer’s costs for rescission.
·Expands protections for high-cost mortgages by lowering the interest rate and the points and fee triggers that define high cost loans.
·Requires additional disclosures for consumers regarding mortgage loans, including the maximum that a consumer could pay on a variable rate mortgage, the amount of settlement charges, the charges included in the mortgage, the amount the consumer must pay at closing, and the fees paid to a mortgage originator.
·Protects tenants who rent homes that go into foreclosure by providing tenants with 90 days to relocate if they are using a unit as a primary residence.

The 2009 District 12 Fashion Show was held Saturday April 25 at Texas A&M Kingsville.


The objective of the Fashion Show is to recognize the members who have excelled in clothing projects and exhibit skills in the application of knowledge of fibers and fabrics to wardrobe selection, clothing construction or comparison shopping, fashion interpretation and understanding of style, good grooming and poise in front of others, and modeling and presentation of themselves and their garments.

The theme for this years show was “Project Hollywood Runway”, Starr County 4H’ers made remarkable scores in all the judging areas earning all blue ribbons.

In the Buying Division comparison shopping is conducted to include department stores, boutiques or specialty stores, mail order catalogues or having an outfit especially made by a seamstress. Competing in this was Ramiro Valdez in the Intermediate category he won a blue ribbon and was top winner in his category with his suit.

John Jay Cantu and Crystal Perez also received blue ribbons and were top winners in their category and will be advancing to state competition.

The construction division where garments are sewn receiving a blue award in the Junior Division were Mycaela Garza and Eugenio Garza Lisa Saenz in the Intermediate category received a blue award and was the top winner in her category.

In the Senior division Rebecca Saenz wore the best constructed and most beautiful outfit of the entire show. She received a blue award and placed alternate to state, and will also be competing at State Fashion Show.

Ruben Lopez also received a blue award in the Specialty division and will be competing at state fashion show in June.

4H’ers worked under the direction of 4H clothing leader and teacher Mrs. Celinda Alvarado who also competed in countless 4H fashion shows as she was growing up as a 4H’er in San Isidro.

Five Starr county 4H’ers will be competing at State Roundup at Texas A&M College Station .

The week of June 9-12 at State Fashion Show and State Food Show.
State Fashion Show – Construction Specialty – Ruben Lopez
- Construction Dressy – Rebecca Saenz
-Buying Specialty – Crystal Perez
-Buying Dressy – John J. Cantu
State Food Show– Andrea Noles – Nutritious Snacks

Thursday, May 7, 2009

John A. Shuford Honored with Good Ol’ Ag Award


John A. Shuford of Rio Grande City ’44 was presented with the first-ever “Good Ol’Ag” Award presented by the Hidalgo-Starr County A&M Club at its annual Aggie Muster held April 21 at Cielo Banquet Hall in San Juan.

Chairman Zinnia Garcia Elizondo ’96 gave the Howdy, and Father Roy Snipes ’67 led the Invocation. The Hidalgo-Starr A&M Club report was given by President Gauge Gonzalez ’02, and Chris Cowan gave the Aggie Moms’ Club report.

Recipients of the 2009 Aggie Achievement Award scholarships were introduced by Mark Browning ’88. Honored were Victoria Heflin of Sharyland High School, Alyssa Martinez of San Isidro High School, Amanda Pena of Veterans Memorial High School, and Jennifer Salinas of Pharr San Juan Alamo High School, prospective members of the Class of ’13.

Guest speakers for the event were Dr. Benigno “Ben” Villalon ’64 and daughters Dr. Deborah Villalon ’94 and Belda R. Villalon-Hill ’89.

Roxanne De La Garza ’04 spoke on the Muster Tradition, and Shawn Swanberg ’04 led the Roll Call for the Absent, including Calvin C. Boykin, Jr., ’46, Bob Cator ’66, Louis C. Draper ’42, Gary Elzen ’83, G.G. Garcia ’50, Paul Leeper ’46, Robert Lowrey ’30, Joe Marshall ’59, United States Marine Corps 1st Lt. Matthew R. Vandegrift ’03, United States Army 1st Lt. Timothy W. Cunningham ’04, and United States Army 2nd Lt. Zachary R. Cook ’08. Silver Taps followed, and all present joined in singing “The Spirit of Aggieland.”

A reading of “The Last Corps Trip” was given by Heather Broughton Marks ’02 and remarks were heard from 2010 Chairman April Renee Chapa ’02.

Lori Peterson Perez ’93 and Aisha Cruz-Reyes ’02 presented the Good Ol’Ag Award to Johnny Shuford, following the reading of this tribute:

“It is my pleasure to introduce John Albert Shuford – fighting Texas Aggie class of 1944! Johnny Shuford served in M Company while attending Texas A&M College, and he was a member of the Kream & Cow Club. He played baseball at A&M and was famously known as “Lefty” Shuford. In 1943, Johnny earned his place in the sports history books as he pitched the game that shutout the Longhorns at the old Clark’s Field in Austin, with a score of 12 to 0. This has only been done twice in the sixty-six years since then with less impressive scores of 2-0 and 1-0. According to the newspaper articles of those days, “Shuford southpawed opposing teams into submission”, and “[a]t 5 feet 7 and weighing 154 pounds dripping wet, Shuford is poison to left-handed batters”. The media praised him as a “hero… a little and fiery Aggie chunker who forces them to eat from his hands.”

Johnny was instrumental in winning two South West Conference Championships for the Aggies, capturing the respect and admiration of Aggie fans everywhere. The Aggies won the 1942 SWC Championship title outright. In 1943, the Aggies and Longhorns met for the final 2 games of the season, which were going to decide the championship. The Aggies won their game on Friday, but were outscored on Saturday. Texas requested that the Aggies not play a final game to decide the championship because the Longhorn’s best players were leaving for the war. In a great act of sportsmanship, A&M accepted the Longhorns’ request. Coach Norton stated “I don’t want to take advantage of the Steers by playing one more game when they will be weaker and without the services of their best players. I better leave the championship as a tie than to play Texas under those conditions”. The Aggies ended the 1943 season as Co-champions for the SWC.

Johnny was taken out of A&M along with the entire junior and senior classes in May of 1943. He was sent to OCS Infantry School in Georgia and graduated six months later as a Second Lieutenant. He was then assigned to the 318th Infantry, 80th Division at Yuma, Arizona for desert maneuvers. He sailed to Europe on the Queen Mary on July 1, 1944 and was overseas for 18 months. He fought in World War II under General Patton, where he served in four European campaigns, including the Battle of the Bulge. Johnny sailed home from France on the Liberty Ship, and the trip across the ocean took nineteen days. For his service he received the Presidential Unit Citation for combat at Bastone, Belgium, the combat infantry badge, the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and the Silver Star.

Johnny returned to A&M College pretty soon after his discharge to complete his education. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree after the 1946 summer semester. Johnny tells people that he worked his way through A&M as a pilot. You see he worked at the dairy on campus, and according to Johnny, “the cows piled it in one place and I’d pile it in the other.”

Johnny married Helen Valentine on August 30, 1946, and she went back to Houston to complete her cadet nurse’s training, and graduated as a registered nurse that next year. They raised three boys together: Delbert Daniel, Albert Wesley and Bill Valentine Shuford.

Johnny taught farming at Veteran’s School from 1947-1950. During that time he also played semi-pro baseball (1947-49) for the McAllen Palms, and then professional ball with the McAllen Palms from 1950-51, which was a Class D League Pro team. He began farming in 1951 and bought his own farm in 1962. VFW Post 8526 in Rio Grande City recognized him as the Outstanding G.I. Farmer for 1959. He is still farming until this day, and he is always “out-standing” in his field!

Johnny served as a 4-H leader and Boy Scout Leader for many years and was tapped for the Order of the Arrow. He is a charter member of the Starr County Fair and a charter member of St. John United Methodist Church.

He was inducted into the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame in June 2002 and was honored by the Leo Najo Baseball Oldtimers that same year. Johnny served on the board of the Starr County Farm Bureau for 30 years, and in 2005 he received the Farm Bureau Pioneer Award. In 2004, he was inducted into the Texas Produce Association’s Hall of Fame.

Johnny wrote on the list that he gave me: “My life has been an Aggie life”, and it certainly has. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in honoring a man who truly exemplifies the Aggie Spirit - Mr. Johnny Shuford.”


Former Starr County Sheriff Reymundo Guerra will remain free on bond until his sentencing on July 29 after his plea of guilty to one federal drug smuggling conspiracy charge in federal court in McAllen.

In his guilty plea on Friday morning, May 1, Guerra admitted to using his office as sheriff as early as January 2007 to assist a drug smuggling organization, based in Miguel Aleman, led by Jose Carlos Hinojosa. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances.

Guerra faces a minimum of 10 years imprisonment and could possibly receive a penalty of life imprisonment. He also faces a $4 million fine and a five-year term of supervised release. He will be permitted to remain free on bond for the time being, but was informed that he will be taken into custody on July 29.

The Rio Grande Herald attempted on Monday morning to contact Guerra’s attorney, Philip Hilder of Houston, but was unable to reach him.

In an article on Saturday, May 2, The McAllen Monitor quoted Hilder as saying, “He (Guerra) feels that he’s let down his family, friends and constituents. He’s deeply remorseful for that.”

On Friday, County Judge Eloy Vera told The Herald, “I am disappointed and I feel sorry for his family. However, nobody is above the law and anyone who breaks the law has to face the consequences. I wish his family the best during these difficult times.”

Guerra pleaded guilty at a hearing Friday morning before U.S. District Judge Randy Crane in McAllen.

Guerra was one of 27 persons charged with various drug trafficking and/or money laundering offenses alleged in a superseding indictment returned in October 2008. A total of 20 defendants, including Guerra, have entered pleas of guilty to one or more counts in the indictment.

Following his arrest by FBI agents on Oct. 14, the Commissioners Court voted at an emergency meeting on Oct. 20 to accept Guerra’s resignation. Guerra wound up resigning twice because he was on the November 2008 ballot without opposition.

Following his arrest, the government insisted that Guerra was a flight risk and danger to the community and requested that he be held without bond. He was incarcerated without bond until mid-December.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Houston, “Guerra admitted that since at least January of 2007 he utilized information learned as a result of his position as sheriff to enable Jose Carlos Hinojosa and his drug trafficking associates to avoid investigation and possible arrest and to hasten their release if they were arrested…On at least one occasion, Guerra knowingly gave a false document to investigators to deflect suspicion from one of Hinojosa’s associates.”

The Houston office added, “…Through his actions, Guerra helped Hinojosa and his associates to continue to engage in drug trafficking activities in Starr County. In return for his information and protection, Guerra was compensated through ‘gifts’ from Hinojosa, typically $2000 to $3000 at a time.”

The Monitor article on Saturday stated, “But federal prosecutors said Friday that he (Guerra) did not actually play a role in bringing any illegal drugs into the United States and termed him ‘a minor participant’ in the illegal (Gulf Cartel) organization.”

The article stated that Guerra first met Hinojosa when the latter “was legitimately working with law enforcement in Mexico.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Toni Trevino was quoted by The Monitor as saying, “Hinojosa would assist Guerra with the return of various suspects who had escaped from the United States.”

The prosecutor declared, however, that by January 2007, Guerra was fully knowledgeable that Hinojosa had left his work in legitimate law enforcement to become a full-fledged narcotics trafficker.

Guerra was appointed Interim Sheriff in March 1998. He was elected in November 1998 to fill the remaining two years of the unexpired term. He was elected to full four-year terms in 2000 and 2004.


Late last week, county and school officials were expressing cautious optimism that the swine flu problem in Starr County was slowly showing improvement after the decision was made to close Rio Grande City CISD schools through at least Monday, May 4.

On Monday morning, May 4, however, it was announced that all RGCCISD schools would remain closed through Friday, based on the recommendation made by Starr County Health Authority Dr. Jose Vasquez. Students are expected to report to school on Monday, May 11. All RGCCISD personnel are asked to report to work on Friday, May 8.

RGCCISD Board President Basilio D. Villarreal, Jr. told the Rio Grande Herald on Monday afternoon, “They’re asking us to stay closed. They’re testing some old cases of which some may be positive. It is the call of the Health Department. There is an increase in flu symptoms over the past week.”

Villarreal indicated that a letter signed by County Judge Eloy Vera and Health Authority Dr. Jose Vasquez requested that RGCCISD schools remain closed through Friday, May 8.

Villarreal added, “We’re talking with the Commissioner of TEA to see where we’ll go involving TAKS testing and whether the lost time needs to be made up.”

On Monday afternoon, RGCCISD Superintendent Roel Gonzalez declared, “There are some new developments. We’re waiting for some back cases. We are expecting to reopen to students on Monday, May 11.”

On Tuesday afternoon, April 28, Rio Grande City CISD officials, in conjunction with county officials and the Starr County Health Authority, made the decision to close all 14 Rio Grande City CISD schools through Friday, May 1. The decision was later made to extend the closure of schools through Monday, May 4. Officials also decided to close all RGCCISD administrative offices on Thursday, Friday and Monday.

The decision was made because of two confirmed cases of swine flu with sixth grade boys at Veterans Middle School. As of Monday, May 4, there were no additional confirmed cases in Starr County.

On April 28, officials indicated that a large number of Type A non-swine flu influenza cases in RGCCISD schools also contributed to the closure decision. On April 28, there were more than 1800 absences out of a total enrollment of over 10,200 students in RGCCISD schools.

On Friday, May 1, Judge Vera told The Rio Grande Herald, “The swine flu situation is looking considerably better. There have been no more confirmed cases. The two individuals diagnosed with swine flu are doing very well. They were never in serious danger. We expect to re-evaluate the situation on Monday.”

RGCCISD Superintendent Gonzalez stated Friday afternoon, “We’ll re-evaluate the situation on Monday. The health authority has requested that schools remain closed on Monday. We are feeling more positive and optimistic about the situation.”

Judge Vera emphasized, “This is something to be concerned about, but people should not be alarmed. We’re merely trying to stop it from spreading.”

Vera noted, “There was a lot of absenteeism (in RGCCISD schools) because of regular flu and fear of what was happening.”

The closure of RGCCISD schools was announced at a press conference at the Courthouse Annex late on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 28.

The officials stated, “The Starr County Judge, the Starr County Health Authority, and the Rio Grande City Consolidated Independent School District and Administration, after extensive discussion with TDH officials at Region 11, as well as at the state level, all agree that it’s in the best interest of our community to cancel all activities in the Rio Grande City CISD until Friday, May 1, 2009. At that time we will re-evaluate the situation and take further action as needed. This decision has been taken to ensure the safety and welfare of our children and of our citizens. By taking this action we hope to prevent the spread of this disease.”

The officials added, “The reason we choose for the RGCCISD schools to cancel all activities is the fact that children within the same families attend different schools in the district. In this manner we are trying to prevent the transmission of the virus from one school to the other. We have been in close contact with all the other school districts within the county and up to now, we do not have any evidence of disease in their schools.”

Starr County Health Authority Dr. Jose Vasquez stated at the news conference, “We do not have confirmation (at this time) of the two cases. We’re seeing more cases of Type A influenza in our clinics. We feel this step is the best for the children. We have consulted with TDH; they agree that this is the right step to take.”

Judge Vera declared, “At this point, there is no confirmation of the disease in the other two school districts.” Vasquez indicated, “We are expecting classes (in the RGCCISD) to be closed on Friday.”

RGCCISD Superintendent Gonzalez explained, “We did have TAKS testing today; we haven’t set a date to make up the testing. We will try to find a new window to complete the testing.”

“We had a very high absentee rate,” stressed the superintendent. “We had a number of kids who were sick at school today. We had more than 1800 absent today out of a total enrollment of over 10,000. The important thing is for everybody to heal. I feel comfortable that we did the right thing. We are relying on the professionalism and experience of our doctors.”

Gonzalez added, “Athletic events are continuing. We will have skeleton crews working in the schools the rest of this week. When children as young as third graders are wearing masks, that is a tough situation.”

Vasquez noted, “We’re hoping to get the results of the two potential cases tomorrow or the day after.” Gonzalez emphasized, “Whether these two cases are positive, we have a lot of sick children.”

Rio Grande City Mayor Ruben O. Villarreal commented, “Life within the city will continue as normal. We’re trying to do what’s best for our families.”

“Parents are nervous; they’re hesitant and concerned and for good reason,” insisted Gonzalez. “We don’t know where everything is coming from. We will clean and disinfect the schools to get things in good shape.”

Mayor Villarreal told media representatives, “We need your assistance to get the right information out.” RGCCISD Board President Basilio D. Villarreal, Jr. contended, “If we’re going to err, it should be on the side of safety.”

Gonzalez declared, “Our peak enrollment is 10,214. Normally, we have a couple of hundred absences (per day). A lot of the kids were not in the right frame of mind for testing.”

As of Sunday morning, May 3, there were 39 confirmed cases in Texas and over 160 cases nationwide. In most swine flu cases, the symptoms and effects were mild or moderate.

As of Monday morning, over 290,000 Texas students were out of school due to closures of entire school districts or individual schools. Since Thursday, April 30, the Weslaco, Brownsville, San Benito, and Harlingen school districts were closed entirely due to possible swine flu cases.