ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — Just a few days before students in the Round Rock Independent School District head back to school, the district’s Board of Trustees met behind closed doors to discuss a recommendation to place the district’s superintendent on leave.
The recommendation comes from a monitor appointed by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) last year to oversee the school board. In mid-December, this monitor issued a memo to the board members, recommending they place Superintendent Dr. Hafedh Azaiez on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of an investigation into the underlying conduct of Azaiez — conduct that is outlined in a protective order issued by a Travis County District Court.
The monitor also recommended the board contract with an external investigator to look into the allegations described in the court order.
KXAN obtained copies of previous temporary protective orders that contain allegations against Azaiez of threatening behavior and assault, as well as a copy of an agreed permanent restraining order granted in December. KXAN did not find any record of criminal charges filed against him at this time.
The TEA previously confirmed to KXAN it was investigating Azaiez. On Monday, an agency representative said that investigation was still ongoing.
A closed meeting of the RRISD Board of Trustees was scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday and lasted several hours. According to a spokesperson for the district, the board took no action but scheduled another meeting for Thursday at 7 p.m.
The agenda for Thursday’s meeting states the board will consider the TEA’s recommendation to place Azaiez on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation conducted by an external third party and also consider the appointment of a temporary acting superintendent, pending a search for an interim superintendent.
Mary Goodrich Nix, an attorney representing Azaiez, told KXAN Monday night the TEA memo was “dated and inaccurate.”
In a statement to KXAN, she said in part, “More importantly, the Round Rock ISD Board is well aware of the untimeliness of the TEA’s letter and its inaccuracies. If the Board chooses to take action against Dr. Azaiez based on the inaccuracies contained in the TEA’s letter, about which the Board is well aware, the Board will do so at its own peril.”
Nix also provided KXAN with her correspondence to an attorney for the RRISD Board of Trustees from Dec. 30, in which she called any potential board meetings on the matter an “unnecessary public spectacle.” In the document, Nix said the issue been “amicably resolved,” and Azaiez and the other party have agreed to a civil restraining order under a confidential settlement agreement — not a protective order.
She told KXAN she was concerned about what she believed to be false statements made by board members.
“Those statements wrongly perpetuate false allegations against him, improperly discuss private and confidential personnel matters, and disseminate what I have already demonstrated are objectively false statements contained in the TEA’s memorandum.”Attorney Mary Goodrich Nix
“Succinctly stated,” she went on to say in her message to KXAN, “the FACTS negated the need for today’s Board meeting and any subsequent meeting convened to pursue this matter.”
Dozens of parents spoke up during the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting. Some called for the Superintendent’s firing; others expressed anger and frustration that allegations from the protective orders were brought to the board several months ago.
“It’s clear to me that you would rather have this covered up than to deal with it,” one parent said.
Another asked, “What are you doing, and why are you protecting this man? I’m thankful there is a monitor, so he can watch and see what you people are doing.”
A high school junior in the district said, “I have always wanted to be a teacher. Watching a child learn and grown is an amazing gift, but the thought of me having to work for a man like Dr. Azaiez is making me re-think my career choice,” she said. “Do you really think I want to work for a man like that or a district that protects a man like that?”
Some other parents spoke in support of Dr. Azaiez. For instance, one said, “I’m not law enforcement; nor are you. I recommend the board and RRISD focus on their jobs — education — and let law enforcement do theirs.”
Azaiez began his role as the RRISD superintendent in July 2021 but was met with hostility from some Round Rock ISD parents. Many of them called for the district to hold more public forums before making its hiring decision.
The trustees voted on a three-year contract valued at $350,000. KXAN reported at the time the vote was 5-2, with trustees Dr. Mary Bone and Danielle Weston voting against his hiring.
KXAN has reached out to the RRISD Board of Trustees for comment. We will update this story when more details become available.