in Houston, Texas
‘Daunting task’ for state monitor of El Paso school district in moving past cheating scandal
Wednesday, Aug 22, 2012, 01:33PM CST
By Mike Cronin
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A monitor appointed by the Texas Education Agency will oversee the El Paso Independent School District’s steps to overcome a cheating scandal perpetrated by the former superintendent.

“It is a daunting task,” Judy Castleberry told the El Paso Times. Castleberry previously served as a state monitor for the Dallas Independent School District. A San Antonio resident, she also is a former executive director of that city’s Region 20 Education Service Center in San Antonio.

“It's a big task, and if I can have a small part in it and students will be better served because of that, then I'm pleased,” Castleberry told the Times, while describing El Paso public schools as “a system that’s broken.”

Former Superintendent Lorenzo Garcia pleaded guilty in June to fraud and directing a contract to a mistress. He and other district leaders received raises due to the cheating. School board members blamed the state’s open meetings laws for their failure to get information from the district’s internal auditor.

Trustees further outraged the public by allowing a task force with the responsibility to address the district’s problems to hold its first meeting in secret. Half of the task force members showed up for the first meeting, and two members resigned, the El Paso Times reported.

The state earlier this month put the district’s accreditation on probation.

Castleberry will visit the district periodically and “attend at least one school board meeting a month to determine whether the district is making progress in correcting systemic failures that led to its cheating scandal,” the newspaper reported.

From the El Paso Times:

When she is not in El Paso, Castleberry said, she will have daily contact with interim Superintendent Terri Jordan and other administrators and will watch a live stream of school board meetings online.

Castleberry will submit reports on the district's progress to the state education agency at the end of every month.

She will submit her first report at the end of September.

After reviewing a report, the state will send the document to Jordan, who will distribute it to trustees.

Those reports will be subject to the state Public Information Act, so anyone can request a copy from the Texas Education Agency.

The monitor will earn $75 an hour and receive travel reimbursement on the district’s dime. The TEA will assess the situation every three months.

Other state sanctions include:

  • An independent examination of what allowed the cheating to occur.
  • The hiring of an outside organization to oversee administration and security of standardized testing this academic year.
  • Training of district officials and trustees to prevent comparable violations that would be conducted by an independent company.

***
Contact Mike Cronin at mike@texaswatchdog.org or 713-228-2850.  Follow him on Twitter @michaelccronon.

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