EPISD approves $1M in contracts; people rally against the board

Just before the meeting, political action committee Kids First! Reform EPISD held a rally in front of the headquarters.

EPISD School board approves accounting firm's contract

EL PASO, Texas -

The El Paso School Board's decision on Tuesday will put taxpayers on the hook for nearly $1 million. At the school board meeting, the board approved two contracts mandated by the Texas Education Agency.

Just before the meeting, political action committee Kids First! Reform EPISD held a rally in front of the headquarters. They demanded the board do more to reform the district and were even calling on board members to not run for re-election due to their inaction. On top of the all the outrage over the cheating scandal, the board is spending $1 million to hire outside companies to audit the district and monitor testing. For many El Pasoans, this situation has gone from bad to worse. 

"There is a cancer in this district that is eating away at opportunities for students like myself," said one student to the board during public comment.

Adriana Duarte, who says she was one of the Bowie students who was a victim of the districts cheating scandal said it's already too late for those students to get a diploma. "Now most people will just tell us to get a GED and we don't want that we want a diploma because we didn't go all these years of school just to get a GED. We want to go to college and get a degree," Duarte said.

Duarte said she'll be working at McDonald's because of Dr. Lorenzo Garcia, and while she makes minimum wage, Garcia's six, unnamed co-conspirators are still racking in $100,000 salaries, and they're involvement still not investigated by the district. 

"They have done nothing about all of the people who helped the superintendent," said Kids First! Reform EPISD organizer Frances Wever. "He wasn't out at those schools. He was just telling people what to do and then his little minions went out and told other people what to do. It's a real mess and they have done nothing to stop it."

The board though, would disagree. At a recent meeting they approved nearly $1 million for  the Weaver firm to audit the district accounts and another company to monitor testing. 

But this only makes people more upset. The board specifically chose Weaver because its lead by ex-TEA official, Adam Jones.

"Well here's the problem," said former Senator Eliot Shapleigh. "The audit they want to do, they've got an ex-TEA guy doing the audit. That's like the fox in the middle of the hen house saying he'll help they hens. You can't have TEA do this audit. They are part of the problem."

Back in 2010, the TEA didn't find the district-wide cheating scheme, and Shapleigh and others say this is just a ploy by the board. 

"They said they sent the RFG to 600 companies and the only one responded?" Wever said. "And that one is being led by a man who last year worked for TEA who already came in and said there's nothing wrong? So we are very concerned that TEA is flexing their muscle."

The worst part, Wever said, is amidst all the chaos and million dollars of taxpayer money, there are still students who have been unfairly held back or kicked out of school and nothing is being done to get them back on track. 

 "It's already too late," Duarte said.

 During public comment city Rep. Susie Byrd and state Rep. Marisa Marquez asked the board members to not run for re-election next year. Those requests were met with over-whelming applause from the packed board room.

ABC-7 asked Shapleigh what happens if the board doesn't willfully step down and he said the education commissioner has the power to replace the entire board if he sees fit. 

At the time of this story the board was in closed session and couldn't comment on this story. 

 (Oct. 2012 story)

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