EL PASO, Texas - Update: 10-3-12
Discussion of contracts for monitors will start from scratch.
Region 19 Executive Director, Jimmy Vasquez, told ABC-7 he is expected to meet with interim superintendent of the El Paso Independent School District, Vernon Butler Thursday.
Vasquez said everything that was agreed on between EPISD and Region 19 is off the table, including the $150 an hour pay for the monitors.
He would not comment any further until after meeting with Butler.
Previous: story 9-27-12
The El Paso Independent School District was penalized this summer by the Texas Education Agency for its corruption scandal last year. School administrators artificially inflated test scores and tried to cheat accountability measures, leading the TEA to impose sanctions on the entire district. Teachers say these sanctions aren't helping the schools, but are penalizing teachers, students and taxpayers.
This summer the TEA passed down two sanctions. One requires the district to hire an outside company to monitor testing to put a stop to the cheating. Teachers said there is no need to hire an outside company and spend tons of money to point out the obvious: It wasn't students or teachers who were cheating, it was administrators, they say, but it's the teachers, students and taxpayers who are paying for the district's mistakes.
For 15 EPISD campuses the month of October means testing. But this year the Texas Assessment of Knowledge Skills and Academic Readiness exams will be administered and monitored by Region 19 staff members who are paid $150 per hour.
"It's like we're throwing money at the problem," said Franklin High teacher Tom Davis.
Hiring Region 19 to monitor testing is a stipulation of the TEA sanctions, something the district has to do, but at what cost. Each Region 19 staff member is paid $150 per hour and the district estimates that just for one month, the cost will be $91,200.
Franklin High teacher Tom Davis takes issue with TEA's imposition. He says teachers and students were never at fault for cheating, but administrators who took direction for former Superintendent Dr. Lorenzo Garcia.
"Maybe they can justify some of these expenses, but if additional monitoring of the test is needed, I would like for them to identify exactly where the problems occurred during test administrations," Davis said.
But it's not just the testing TEA is worried about. Spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe says monitors will oversee the shipment of test materials to ensure administrators report scores accurately.
"It will be money well spent," said Ratcliffe. "We have to make sure the results are accurate and reliable and that people can count on them."
It's a sanction that makes sense to El Paso Teachers Association President Norma de la Rosa. But she says if the district is forced to outsource, the board needs to find a cheaper company.
"It's only fair to the students that those testing sights be as free of irregularities as they can be. But I do have an issue with the amount of money that we're going to spend on this first testing site of $150 an hour for people," De La Rosa said.
De La Rosa says the board should look at other, potentially cheaper test monitors from UTEP, El Paso Community College and private companies.