EL PASO, Texas -

Following a review requested by the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD), the district's challenge to Commissioner Michael L. Williams' appointment of a board of managers and conservator for the EPISD has been denied.

Williams' decision to appoint a board of managers and conservator is now final.

"The people of El Paso are ready to begin the work of restoring full trust in their school district," Williams said in a statement. "More importantly, those who I have appointed to serve on the board of managers are ready to work in the public interest to again make the El Paso ISD a source of pride for their community and state.

On Dec. 6, 2012, Williams announced the appointment of a five-member board of managers to oversee the management of the EPISD. At that time, Williams elevated the role of Dr. Judy Castleberry from Texas Education Agency (TEA) monitor to conservator.

EPISD requested a formal record review on the appointment of the board of managers and an informal review on the appointment of a conservator. Record review proceedings were held in Austin on Feb. 7. During the proceeding, EPISD and TEA were allowed to present their case before an appointed designee of the Commissioner.

ABC-7 spoke with former State Representative Dee Margo, a member of the Board of Managers who said he ready to start working for EPISD.

"I'm pleased to move forward. We've been in a state of influx," said Margo.

Margo joins four other members on the Board of Managers: Blanca Enriquez, who runs Region 19's Head Start Program; Ed Archuleta, retiring CEO of El Paso Water Utilities; Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria, City of El Paso's CFO; and Judy Castleberry, current conservator for EPISD.

"To change the culture of an organization, typically in a business setting it takes about three years. I would hope that certainly in two years we could cover 90 percent of it or more. It just depends on the strengths of the people that come in to lead," said Margo

 

EPISD Board President Isela Castañon-Williams released the following statement:

  • "I am extremely disappointed with the decision issued by the Designee of the Commissioner of Education, and do not believe that it presents a true picture of the relevant evidence that was introduced at the February 7, 2013 hearing.  I invite the public to visit the EPISD website www.episd.org to view the transcript of the hearing, especially the cross examination of TEA's witnesses, which does present the facts. Imagine how difficult it must have been for Mr. Timmons, the hearing officer, to consider the evidence impartially, when it was so clear that his boss, Commissioner Williams, wanted the decision to uphold the appointment of the board of managers, as evidenced by his statements in the article appearing in the February 14, 2013 edition of the El Paso Times newspaper.  We plan to respond to any preclearance submission by TEA to the Department of Justice, in an effort to protect the voting rights of the citizens of the District and the integrity of the upcoming May 11 election."

Castleberry will continue to fulfill her responsibilities as conservator for the district. The Commissioner's appointees to the board of managers must be submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice for pre-clearance before they can assume their responsibilities.

Once pre-cleared, the board of managers - comprised of a majority of members from the El Paso community - 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 officials said on Feb. 8 that "if and when TEA re-submits a request for preclearance to the U.S. Department of Justice, it will use the same file number as the initial submission. This would start another 60-day review period. Any comments previously submitted under that file number will still be on file."

The Department of Justice letter to EPISD on Feb. 8 saying it would delay a decision until after the TEA's ruling. The DOJ Feb. 8 letter did not state that another 60-day review period would start if and when TEA re-submits a request for preclearance.

Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Williams appointed a new board of managers to oversee the El Paso Independent School District on Dec. 6.

While members of the current board of trustees are not technically being removed, their power is effectively stripped.

In addition to the new board of managers, Williams elevated the district's state-appointed monitor, Dr. Judy Castleberry to the new position of conservator.

Castleberry will also serve on the five-person board of managers.  Williams appointed three other members to that board on Dec. 6.  Retiring El Paso Water Utilities CEO Ed Archuleta, outgoing Dee Margo, City of El Paso CFO Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria, and Dr. Blanca Enriquez are the others. 

"In order to regain the full trust of this community, and in order for this community to be able to move forward, that it is important for us to change the players in this game," Williams said on Dec. 6, in regards to the the new board.

Other than Castleberry, who will have day to day responsibilities, the positions will be unpaid.

Williams said he wanted managers who have experience dealing with large organizations, and with crisis management.  

"I was looking for individuals who had experience dealing with large entities, and dealing with crisis, and dealing, perhaps at times, with chaos and people who had respect in their community," Williams said. "And so these were some of the names presented to me."

During the Dec. 6 announcement, Williams repeatedly commented on the importance of rebuilding EPISD's public image.