No politics in announcer decision, Hays CISD says

Ever since he was brought in by legendary Rebels Coach Bob Shelton nearly two decades ago, Joe Muñoz increasingly enjoyed his position as the “voice” of the football team.

He wasn’t in it for the money. Being the stadium’s announcer, he says, was more about making sure each kid got his name pronounced correctly and knowing the ins and outs of high school football. He would arrive early and stay late, double checking his facts and being “proactive” for the sake of both the students and attendees.

Then, just 10 days before the first game of this season, Muñoz — who also announced at Lehman games — got some unexpected news. He was told by the stadium manager that his services were no longer needed.

“The reason why was a bit surprising,” Muñoz said. “They wanted to go in a different direction.” Muñoz said in all his time with the Hays CISD, he had never been reprimanded and never had any problems. “In fact I got accolades every year. I was given a pat on the back and they used me for playoff games for years. There had never been a problem.”

He later learned that the “spotter” he had been working with was also let go, though other stadium officials were not. “We’re talking about a voice, me. What does the spotter have to do with it?”

Muñoz said he was told that since the district now has three high schools, a separate announcer for each was being sought. They wanted “someone with a buy-in,” he said. “I said assign me to one of the schools,” though that didn’t happen.

Muñoz, who served on the Hays CISD school board from 1999 to 2010, said he suspects the reason he lost the job was his support for two people who ran against incumbent board members in May.

He feels that was reinforced by the fact the stadium’s clock operator Mark Jones (who is also Precinct 2 Commissioner for Hays County), who supported the two incumbent members, still has his job.

“This is about retaliation,” he said. “School board members do not need to be in the weeds about who is driving the bus or ordering the chemicals to clean the toilet.” During his time on the school board, he said his objectives were maintenance and operation. “The only employee we employed was the superintendent and the only time we had power was when we convened. I couldn’t go around to campuses telling them they needed to raise their chalk board, but that’s apparently what’s happening.”

Dr. David Wiley, who was on the board at the same time as Muñoz and acted as the “back up” football announcer, said it seemed that way to him too.

“To the casual observer this could appear to be retaliation for expressing his First Amendment rights,” Wiley said. “It doesn’t pass the smell test.”

School board President Esperanza Orosco said the decision was “not board-related.” The district’s Chief Communications Officer Tim Savoy denied board involvement, saying the change was as Muñoz was told, part of a process to develop a “voice” unique to each of the district’s three high schools (although the Johnson Jaguars won’t play varsity until the 2020-2021 school year).

The district will go with a “shared stadium” but different announcers for each high school. He said a teacher/coach is announcing Hays games, while a teacher mans the mic for Lehman. Both are on campus “every day, interacting with the kids, being able to use their names more when they’re calling the plays. This was the time, with the opening of the third high school, to make that decision. We want to ‘brand’ each high school by having their own announcer.”

A parent who said she was “one of lots” called the Hays Free Press office to complain about the “new” announcer.

“I don’t know what happened to the old announcer but the new announcer is not very competent,” said Lehman parent Melissa Payne. “He was calling the plays wrong and calling the home team Kyle Lehman, not the Lehman Lobos … I don’t know who it is or why they switched … he’s not very good or competent.”

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