Texas Commissioner of Education Michael L. Williams on Friday, Dec. 21 named Dr. Blanca Enriquez of El Paso as the fifth and final member of a board of managers for the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD).
The board of managers - comprised of a majority of members from the El Paso community - will be responsible for overseeing the management of EPISD, including oversight of the district's efforts to address and correct identified deficiencies and to implement effective, structural and procedural improvement strategies for long-term, positive change.
"El Pasoans should be assured in the knowledge, experience and abilities possessed by this board of managers as they work to restore full confidence in the school district," said Commissioner Williams. "I can assure you that these board members were selected upon the strongest recommendation and valuable input from the people of El Paso who want only the best for their students, parents, teachers and schools."
Enriquez currently serves as executive director of the Region 19 Education Service Center Head Start Program. While at ESC Region 19, she has also worked as director of the Special Populations Divisions and Bilingual Program. Enriquez's more than 40 years of experience in education also includes stints as an elementary school teacher, teacher leader and teacher's aide in the EPISD. In addition, she is a graduate of Bowie High School in El Paso. Enriquez has been active in various community organizations including the education committee of the Economic Development Planning Division of the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce, Paso Del Norte Committee, and the United Way of El Paso.
The appointment of a board of managers for El Paso ISD was first announced by Commissioner Williams on Dec. 6. At that time, four of the five members were named:
Edmund G. "Ed" Archuleta
Edmund G. "Ed" Archuleta has been manager (president and CEO) of the El Paso Water Utilities Public Service Board since January 1989. He recently announced his retirement from that position. A registered professional engineer in Texas, New Mexico, and Iowa, Archuleta is a well established community leader who is currently serving or has assisted several civic organizations, including the United Way, the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, the Rotary Club, and the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce.
Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria is the chief financial officer for the City of El Paso. She has served in this capacity for more than seven years and has worked extensively in the governmental sector throughout her career. In addition to her professional achievements, she is engaged in the community and volunteers her time for various causes such as the El Paso Chapter of the YWCA and the Center Against Family Violence. She and her husband have three children who attend school in the EPISD.
The Honorable Dee Margo
A resident of El Paso for over three decades, Rep. Dee Margo has served in the Texas House of Representatives representing District 78. For over 30 years, Dee has worked at the John D. Williams Company, a firm with El Paso roots dating back to 1898, working his way up through the ranks from vice president in 1977 to president, chairman and CEO.
Dr. Judy Castleberry
Appointed as conservator in the El Paso ISD on Dec. 6 by Commissioner Williams, Dr. Judy Castleberry had served as a TEA monitor in the district since August 2012. A former executive director of the Region 20 Education Service Center (ESC), Castleberry has served in various instructional leadership roles for the Fort Sam Houston ISD and Region 20 ESC.
Williams named the fifth member of the board after receiving recommendations from the State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, who consulted with the El Paso legislative delegation to come up with a list of names. The Commissioner noted the critical role the El Paso community has played in this process.
"Through their legislative delegation, through various community leaders and through direct contact with me and the Texas Education Agency, the people of El Paso have had a strong voice in the selection process for this board of managers," said Commissioner Williams. "In speaking with each member of the board of managers, I don't think anyone can question their commitment in tackling the job that's ahead of them."
The appointment of a board of managers for El Paso ISD has been submitted to the U.S Department of Justice for pre-clearance. The federal pre-clearance process is expected to take approximately 60 to 90 days.
Once in place, the appointed board of managers will assume all responsibilities of the elected board of trustees. The board of managers will be in place for up to two years. A school board election must be called within two years of this appointment.
EPISD board of trustees aren't going down without a fight. The board announced Dec. 12 it will appeal Williams' decision to strip the board of its powers.
If the appointed board of managers takes its place, it will do so just two months before school board elections in May.
This means newly elected trustees will have virtually no power, and the people who will, will not be accountable to taxpayers and parents.
Williams is only four months on the job but he's moving fast. He's appointed as EPISD conservator, a promotion from monitor. She can direct school board meeting agendas and overrule board decisions.
"There's a board of managers that have even more powers than that," Williams said.
And Williams appointed them too. He didn't wait to appoint a conservator, but will have to wait for the Department of Justice to approve the five-member-board.
"When the commissioner made his decision, he stopped everyone from being about to exercise their right to vote," said Antonio Williams who supports the board of trustees.
Antonio Williams is Board President Isela Castanon-Williams son, but he's also a local attorney and president of the Stonewall Young Democrats. He tells me if the board of managers is approved, board elections in May will mean nothing.
"Even if they choose to have an election and to vote in the people they want, the people they choose, their elected choice will not be able to begin till almost two years from now," Williams said.
That's when the board of managers' time is up, which is a good amount of time to clean up the district, according to City Rep. Susie Byrd who rallies for the political action committee Kids First Reform EPISD.
"I think given what's happened and their clear neglect of the basic duties, they need to step down. We need a board that's ready to do the hard work of repairing this district," Byrd said last week.
But the board says that's what they've been doing, and after two failed TEA audits that found no cheating, Castanon-Williams says the TEA is the one that failed the district.
"This EPISD board has complied with all the requirements the TEA set out in its letter. However the installation of a board of managers weeks before the elections in May is unfair to the constituents we represent," Castanon-Williams said.
And representation is another issue to Antonio.
"Segundo Barrio is arguably its own area and it's also not represented and it's at the epicenter of the public corruption scandal," Williams said. "So certainly one would argue that it's not fair that the people who are appointed aren't even coming from the same neighborhoods. They don't have children that attend the same schools."
But Byrd says, that doesn't matter.
"Between Ed and Carmen, you have two very prominent, solid leaders that know how to work and how to fix a bureaucracy," Bryd said. "They've done it before, they can do it again."