Texas' top education agency has appointed its own board to manage the duties of the embattled EL Paso school board after a cheating scandal that put the district on probation.
Texas Education Commission head Michael Williams announced Thursday that the move was made to regain the public trust. Very few Texas districts have faced such a harsh sanction, which is pending approval by the Department of Justice because the El Paso board members are elected officials.
Williams says the current board of trustees will remain in place but the newly appointed Managers Board will have "all the responsibility and authority."
Former superintendent Lorenzo Garcia is serving a 3½-year sentence for fraudulently altering student test results in order to secure funds and $56,000 in bonuses.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
Senator José Rodríguez issued the following statement regarding the action:
"The events at EPISD have caused the community to lose trust and confidence in their district leaders. District administrators lost their way and failed their responsibility to the students, the teachers, and the community at large. Unfortunately, the Board of Trustees failed as well. The Trustees didn’t hold the administrators accountable, and ultimately, they failed to hold themselves accountable. Although I believe the majority of the Trustees to be well-intentioned, the Trustees never fully acknowledged their responsibility for the situation, and as a result, they made it difficult for the community to trust their actions.
"I respect Commissioner Williams' decision today. While I commend him for taking strong action, the TEA must also review its own role in this tragedy. I hope that the Commissioner will proceed with a third-party audit of the agency's own actions and its failure to discover the widespread corruption at EPISD.
"I hope these moves put the district on a stronger footing to recover and progress. We must remember that good things happen every day at EPISD. In fact, a little over a month ago, I was at Douglass Elementary as part of a group honoring their achievement as a nationally recognized Blue Ribbon School.
"While it was Commissioner Williams' decision to appoint a Board of Managers, the ultimate responsibility to fix the school district is ours."
The five-member Board of Managers will include State Rep. Dee Margo, who will leave office in January; TEA Monitor Judy Castleberry; the City of El Paso's Chief Financial Officer Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria; Public Service Board CEO Ed Archuleta, who will leave the PSB in July; and a fifth member whom the Senator will recommend to the Commissioner.
Senator Rodríguez has filed five bills dealing with the El Paso Independent School District, which has struggled to deal with revelations that its superintendent and top administrators manipulated students and data in order to give the false impression of higher test scores. Senator Rodríguez highlighted their importance by filing on November 12th, the first day of filing for bills to be considered during the 83rd Legislature. The bills are as follows:
· SB 119, which would create a program that would require EPISD to offer remedial classes and alternative graduation for students cheated of their education by the actions of district administrators.
· SB 121 strengthens whistleblower protections to encourage school district employees to report illegal activity without fear of retaliation.
· SB 122 adds school districts’ boards of trustees to the list of county officials who can be removed from office for incompetence or misconduct.
· SB 123 strengthens TEA’s oversight of school districts by providing the commissioner of education with the authority to issue subpoenas and the ability to more easily investigate suspicious data reporting by districts.
· SB 124 makes the fraudulent manipulation of data reported to the TEA a third degree felony.