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EPISD releases audit into cheating scandal

By Staff Report
Published On: Apr 01 2013 06:02:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 20 2013 08:33:54 PM CDT

We've obtained a copy of the audit revealing the alleged cheating scandal at EPISD. ABC-7 speaks with one administrator removed from the district.

EL PASO,Texas -

El Paso Independent School District released an 86-page audit, with some redactions, today that looked into the school district's alleged cheating scandal.

Weaver and Tidwell, LLP, the auditor hired by the district to conduct the audit, investigated the alleged cheating scandal from Nov. 5, 2012 to Feb. 8, 2013. The company provided periodical reports to the school board along the way.

The company conducted and documented at least 154 witnesses, including individuals from Central Office and at least nine campuses. Former employees also were interviewed.

EPISD Conservator Judy Castleberry declined to comment on the audit report's findings.

"I don't plan to speak about it publicly.  I believe it will speak for itself," Castleberry said.

Of more than one million emails downloaded from the district's current and former email systems, 98,000 emails were pulled from more than 60 current and ex-staff members' current and archived email data files.

Weaver and Tidwell, LLP made a report to the school board in executive session at the Dec. 18, 2012 board meeting, according to the audit.

"As a result of this report, the Chief of Staff (Editor's Note: Terri Jordan) resigned and an Assistant Principal at Bowie High School was terminated. Another Central Office employee mentioned in the report had already submitted her retirement request prior to the beginning of our investigation," the audit states.

Jordan's last day with the district was Dec. 21, 2012.

In May 2010, the then state senator Eliot Shapleigh began accusing the EPISD of a massive cheating scandal.

Jordan was serving as chief of staff under Lorenzo Garcia, the then superintendent, at the time.

In Dec. 2010, the FBI launched an investigation and Garcia was indicted in July 2011. Jordan was named the interim superintendent that same month.

Jordan stepped down from her superintendent role in Sept. 2012 and went back to her previous position.

Garcia and Jordan met with the FBI twice to explain how EPISD worked and various education-related programs. Jordan was personally interviewed twice by the FBI, the last time in either March or April 2012.

EPISD hired outside counsel to interview district employees who had been interviewed by the FBI and assist these employees in preparing affidavits detailing what, in the affiant's opinion, were abusive tactics employed during the FBI's interviews, according to the audit.

Seven affidavits dated beween April 19 and June 16, 2011 were taken.

The outside counsel was paid $63,901 for his services.

"During his grievance hearing, Dr. (Jesus) Chavez stated (James) Anderson called him to his office to discuss Dr. Chavez's "formative" (performance) appraisal," according to the audit report. "Chavez stated that upon arriving at Anderson's office, Anderson presented him with a pre-written affidavit regarding Chavez's interview with the FBI. Dr. Chavez stated the nature of the affidavit suggested the FBI was not conducting its investigation in a professional manner. According to Dr. Chavez, Anderson advised him the affidavits were going to be used to pressure the FBI to call off its investigation of the District. On the advice of counsel, Dr. Chavez refused to sign the affidavit."

The EPISD board of trustees will consider the proposed termination and/or non-renewal of employment contracts of four principals and four assistant principals at the district's meeting on Tuesday, April 2.

The principals, who have been put on administrative leave, are:

  • Principal Randall Wood, Burges High School.
  • Principal John Tanner, Austin High School.
  • Principal Kristine Ferret, El Paso High School.
  • Principal Luis C. Loya, Center for Career & Technology Education.

Other jobs on the line at the school board meeting:

  • Assistant principal, Austin High School
  • Assistant principal, Burges High School
  • Assistant principal, El Paso High School
  • Assistant principal, Jefferson High School

All eight of the jobs will be discussed behind closed doors. Any final action as a result of this discussion will be taken at the reopening of this meeting,
later during the open session or at a subsequent meeting.

Interim Superintendent Vernon L. Butler has assigned administrators to serve as temporary principals at the affected campuses.

“I want to assure our students and parents that there is solid leadership on their campus and that the District is providing the necessary support to ensure continued student success,” interim Superintendent Vernon L. Butler said in a news release.

Interim administrators assigned to work at the campuses with the current staff are:
• Austin High School – Nick Cobos
• Burges High School –  Craig Kehrwald
• El Paso High School – Steve Clay
• Center for Career & Technology Education –  Matthew Farley

Also on the agenda will be consultation with legal counsel concerning  Consultation with Legal Counsel Concerning Legal Issues Relating To:
1. Inquiries/Investigations by Outside Agencies
2. TEA Administrative Review and Submittal to the U.S. Department of Justice
Regarding Commissioner of Education Appointments of Conservator and
Board of Managers

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