Today the Texas Education Agency formally sanctioned El Paso ISD, putting their accreditation status on probation in the wake former superintendent Lorenzo Garcia’s confession of fraud in June.
The west Texas school district is quickly becoming the central figure in a cautionary tale that parents across the state should take to heart. Garcia resigned in November, and in June admitted that he falsified data sent to federal and state education agencies, for things such as student attendance and the dropout rate. Funding can be tied to both, and there are serious ramifications with this kind of cheating. Garcia’s actions have seriously harmed his district, and there’s no telling how deep this deception actually went. A task force has been appointed and the new state-appointed monitor will be working to discover exactly that.
However, the district has opted to keep task force meetings dealing with this situation closed, a move that really should worry El Paso ISD taxpayers. State Rep. Dee Margo and his Democratic colleagues from the area have all called for greater transparency. State Rep. Marisa Marquez got it absolutely correct when she told the El Paso Times that “there is no excuse” for closed door meetings in EPISD given everything that has happened. Of course, district officials blame open meetings law for their ignorance of the problem to begin with, a flimsy excuse for ignorance and certainly no excuse at all for their current actions.
A little disinfecting sunshine won’t hurt El Paso ISD, and clearly there is a situation where regaining the trust of taxpayers and parents should be paramount. Meanwhile, this is a situation where parents need options, and one thing available to them would be to petition to create a home-rule charter district with a different governance structure that could clean out the corruption. The parents in the district need to take ownership of the situation if the district administration continues to hide their actions and keep the public from a full understanding.