12News has learned High Island ISD Superintendent Dr. D'Ann Vonderau has been placed on administrative leave with pay following an emergency meeting to discuss a gun found by students in a school van.
Read the superintendent's full statement here:
Statement of Dr. D’Ann Vonderau
High Island Independent School District
May 19, 2017
Thank you for allowing me to address the school board and the High Island community. I ap-preciate the opportunity to clarify a few issues.
As the board knows, I am authorized to carry a concealed handgun in the scope of my duties as superintendent. Several years ago, a school shooting tragedy elsewhere in the nation prompted our school district to reassess our district safety and active-shooter contingency plans. Consider-ing our district’s relatively remote location and that I sometimes travel alone for work, the board authorized me to carry a concealed handgun. I hold a State of Texas license to do so and have taken gun safety and active shooter training. The handgun has never been drawn or discharged during my duties as superintendent.
On May 1, 2017, I traveled to West Hardin ISD in Saratoga, Texas on school district business in a district vehicle with other district employees. Once we arrived, I observed that the school district does not allow concealed handguns on its campuses. I then left the handgun in the locked district vehicle to attend the meeting. Upon returning from the event to school district offices, I neglected to retrieve the handgun and it was left in the district vehicle. When the vehicle was next used, a High Island ISD student-athlete discovered the handgun in the vehicle while traveling for a sports competition. A High Island ISD coach immediately secured the handgun and returned it to me as I was attending the same sports competition, but traveling in my own personal vehicle. I expressed my gratitude to the student-athlete and the coach for their assistance and safe handling of the weapon. The following day, I notified Mr. Benny Barrow, the president of the High Island ISD school board, explained the series of events, and apologized for leaving the handgun in the district vehicle.
Finally, word of my mistake has made its way around the district and beyond. Some of the published social media remarks have been troubling, as have unfounded rumors and gossip, and I will defer to the independent findings of the school board and other authorities on those issues. But I assure you that this has been a lesson learned. This incident provided me with an important reminder to be even more vigilant in securing my licensed handgun while on district business – and to continue to work with the school board to evaluate our safety policies. I sincerely regret that this incident happened and again apologize. Of course, I will continue to cooperate with the school district board as we work to resolve this matter. In closing, please know that I also am grateful for the support, now and through the years, of the school board, our teachers and staff, our students, and our community.
Thank you for your time. I wish the best for the children of this district.
FROM PREVIOUS REPORT:
HIGH ISLAND - 12News has learned that High Island ISD trustees will have a meeting this Friday to discuss a gun found by students on a school van during a school trip.
The district’s business manager, Becky Strothers, confirmed to 12News that the gun was found on the van, but she could not say how the gun got on the van.
The agenda for the meeting says, “Consultation with legal counsel regarding legal issues pertaining to Board member / superintendent communication.”
Friday’s meeting is set for 6 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose building of the district located at 2113 6thStreet.