Senator Rodríguez calls for EPISD trustees to act now to discipline employees, do right by students
Immediately upon my election I began taking steps to understand and address the community’s concerns regarding the test cheating scandal in the El Paso Independent School District.
I engaged with the U.S. Department of Education, the Texas Education Agency, EPISD trustees, other legislators and various community leaders and stakeholders since January 2011. After speaking with TEA in June I began preparing legislation that would strengthen whistleblower protection, give the TEA subpoena power, create a program to allow remedial classes and alternative graduation for affected students, and enhance criminal penalties for purposeful manipulation of data.
Also in June, I called upon EPISD board members “to take all steps necessary to restore public trust, including, but not limited to, taking disciplinary action against those involved with (former Superintendent) Dr. Garcia. … Foremost, we must make the students’ success our top priority.”
The board includes good people trying to do right by the community. I have not rushed to judgment because we are a nation of laws, and I believe in due process. But I also believe in accountability and moving forward.
Last night’s decision to hire a former high-ranking TEA official to perform vital audits on the district has, at the least, the appearance of being a conflict of interest. Simply put, the board should have known better. The district is in need of a change!
After Dr. Garcia pleaded guilty in June and disclosed there were six co-Conspirators I told several members of the board they needed to take immediate action against those involved. I now want to reiterate to the board:
1) Take disciplinary action against the six persons not named but referred to in Garcia’s guilty plea.
2) Do right by the students, immediately. How are they supposed to take the district’s assertions that it cares about them when people who were involved in this scandal continue to, presumably, work there?
If the district does not immediately take action upon this request, I will ask the TEA commissioner to remove the trustees.
Last week, I was proud to stand with students, teachers and administrators at Douglass Elementary, which was recognized as one of only 269 schools nationwide to receive a Blue Ribbon School designation from the U.S. Department of Education. I know the district is not broken at the bottom – teachers teach, and students learn. The community deserves strong, capable leadership to steer its ship. We need decisive action, which is what I am calling for now.