EL PASO, Texas - R. Todd Webster, Chief Deputy Commissioner for the Texas Education Agency, notified interim Superintendent Dr. Terri K. Jordan Aug. 13 that the El Paso Independent School District's status has been lowered to Accredited - Probation.
The TEA also has assigned a monitor to EPISD.
Dr. Judy Castleberry, a former administrator with Fort Sam Houston ISD and former director of a regional Education Service Center in San Antonio, has been assigned to act as a monitor for EPISD. The letter will be formally presented to the EPISD board at a special meeting to be scheduled at the end of the week.
"As you may recall, the district asked TEA to appoint an administrative partner earlier this year, so this move is not unexpected," Jordan said. The district will do everything possible to make the improvements necessary and welcomes TEA's help. I look forward to working closely with Dr. Castleberry to inform her of our progress to date, and to lay out our plans for continuing to move forward."
The TEA has required the district to hire a legal, accounting or auditing firm to identify what went wrong that allowed former Superintendent Lorenzo Garcia to manipulate test scores and illegally hold students back or make them skip a grade to falsify test performances.
That firm will make suggestions to the district, including possible firings.
"If we find that it is necessary to begin the process for termination for employees, then that's what we will have to do. That's a commitment that we will make to our community in moving forward and again strengthening this district," said Jordan.
The district will also have to hire an external entity to oversee test administration and they'll have to train employees to make sure the cheating doesn't happen again.
The district will also have to pay for the TEA monitor at $75 pre hour, plus travel expenses.
"We don't know the exact cause of this at this point. However, it's an investment in earning back that confidence from our community and we'll pay what that requires us to do... we feel this is a postive thing and we feel that even though it's disheartening in some respects, this is a way that we can continue to move forward and earn back the trust of all of our employees and this entire community," said Jordan.
EPISD officials said they continue to work with the investigative agencies to understand the full impact of the former superintendent's criminal activity. The district is identifying, through the review of data and other sources, those students who did not receive their diploma and provide them with opportunities and the support they need to graduate.
Policy revisions regarding purchasing, hiring, and placement of transfer students have already been implemented. The board has also taken steps to clarify the internal audit process.
"I believe that Dr. Castleberry will be a valuable asset to the rebuilding of EPISD," Board President Isela Castañon-Williams said. "EPISD is focused on the education of students, and is working diligently to make certain that the unethical and illegal actions of the former superintendent not occur again. A great deal of work has already been done, and we will work closely with Dr. Castleberry to continue the progress already made and move the District forward."