The El Paso Independent School District, on the heels of being placed on probation by the Texas Education Agency as a result of a cheating scheme admittedly implemented by former Superintendent Lorenzo Garcia, faced strong words from community members in a meeting on Tuesday.
The district spent about two hours showing measures in place to ensure transparency but for many, that wasn't enough.
El Paso City Rep. Susie Byrd and County Judge Veronica Escobar, both mothers with children enrolled in the district, attended the meeting. They want the board to make the auditor find who helped Garcia cheat and fire them.
"Go in, find out what schools cheated, who did the cheating and fire those people who participated. We (the city of El Paso) do that all the time. We were alerted there was something wrong with our police department. We sent our internal auditor, he found wrong doing. People got fired," Byrd told the board, referring the the overtime scandal within the Police Department the City's Internal auditor discovered.
The board's attorney, Anthony Safi, said the board could not fire employees before they are indicted by the FBI because the termination of contractual employees requires "good cause" and sufficient evidence. That includes witnesses that have first hand knowledge of such employee's wrongdoing.
Escobar and Byrd said the district could find that "sufficient evidence" if the board authorized the Internal Auditor to investigate the schools where the cheating went on and speak to employees who have that first hand knowledge of the scheme.
Pam Campbell said she is one of those employees. On Tuesday, she told the board she had informed them of the cheating in July 2011 and no action was taken.
"I disagree with this board in saying that we don't know who the six co-conspirators are because some of us had the misfortune of working directly with them," Campbell told the board.
Escobar suggested the board make employees disclose if they've received a target investigation letter from the FBI so the district can weed out potential accomplices. Byrd also wants the new task force, who is supposed to help reform EPISD, to hold their meetings in public.
EPISD said they've taken measures of transparency, such as not allowing the superintendent to hire or fire administrators without the board's approval, as Garcia used to do. The district has also now made it possible to track who is manipulating student transcripts, something that was not possible under Garcia.
"We've worked through our student technology system and have built in that audit trail, it is available," Interim Superintendent Terri Jordan said on Monday during an interview with ABC-7.
The board also voted Tuesday to start accepting proposals for a search firm that will seek Superintendent candidates. They also showed a plan to seek 17 former Bowie High School students who were affected by the cheating scheme so that they can get the school credits they were once denied.
ABC-7 tried to interview board members but was told they were running late into closed session and didn't have time to be interviewed.