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Parents, community members start petition to reinstate embattled administrators at EPISD schools

By Maria Garcia, MariaG@kvia.com.
Published On: Apr 01 2013 07:38:36 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 02 2013 05:17:09 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 -

Hundreds of parents and community members are calling for the El Paso Independent School District to reinstate four principals who have been removed from their positions.

By Monday evening, the group had gathered about 290 signatures asking for El Paso High School Principal Kristine Ferrett to be reinstated at the helm of the campus. The group of parents, community members and even students, said they have specific concerns about the scope of the audit which prompted the removals of the administrators.

Last week, the District removed Austin H.S. Principal John Tanner, Burges' Randall Woods, Center for Career and Technology Education Principal Luis Loya and Ferrett. ABC-7 has also learned Grace Runkles, assistant principal at El Paso High has also since been removed of her duties.

The parents believe the timing of the administrators removal is harmful to the students and the campuses. "Students have end-of-course testing, STAAR testing. The principals and the administrators are preparing budget and needs assessments. They need budgets - that's all going on right now. Probably the most important couple of weeks of the year," Sergio Borunda, a parent who's helped organized the petition to reinstate Ferrett, told ABC-7 Monday.

A sophomore at El Paso High School, Marissa Rodriguez, said she and her classmates were administered an Advanced Placement mock exam an hour and a half late Monday morning.  "Which was time cut into how much time was allotted to us to write our essays and we were told this was because there was lock of administration so they couldn't make enough copies of the tests. That was a big problem because now I feel I'm not prepared for when I take the real AP test because I don't know how it feels to have the full time allotted to me."

Parents said Ferrett should be at school filling out crucial budget paperwork and needs assessment, plus signing off on student travel for competitions.

The El Paso ISD would not comment, citing that the issue is a personnel matter. A spokeswoman said the district is following a process they set up and are not taking hasty decision. Parents' concerns will be heard by the board at Tuesday's 4pm board meeting, Spokeswoman Renee De Santos said.

The parents also believe the accounting firm that conducted the audit, Austin-based Weaver and Tidwell, has very limited education experience. The group, in a letter to the EPISD board, wrote the parents have serious reservations about Weaver's experience in evaluating "complex educational and pedagogical practices, the methodology by which they reached their findings, their extraordinary fees, and the lack of transparency in reporting their results."

The firm could not be reached for comment.

"Their stronghold is straight out accounting. They work mostly with oil companies. It's flawed all over. I don't think they're the correct firm to do it," Borunda said.

School board members, under pressure from the public and under a directive from the Texas Education Agency, hired Weaver after the firm was the only company out of hundreds contacted, to bid for the contract.

The parents' main concern is that the principals were not informed of specific allegations against them or allowed to respond to accusations. The audit was released Monday afternoon at 5pm. They were removed the prior Wednesday. "They need to reinstate the principals, step back a little bit and let's look at that report, let's look at that weaver finding and give it due process, shed some light on it and submit it to public scrutiny," said Borunda.

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