orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

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August 14, 2012

Texas sanctions El Paso school district

EL PASO, Texas — The Texas Education Agency on Monday placed the El Paso school district's accreditation status on probation and levied other sactions in response to a broad cheating scheme meant to improve school rankings.

The El Paso Times (http://bit.ly/Nee2Gu ) reported Monday that the Texas Education Agency told school board President Isela Castanon in a letter that it also was requiring the district to hire outside consultants to overhaul the system that allowed the wrongdoings. The agency says it will assign a monitor to report to the agency about district activities.

Lorenzo Garcia, a former El Paso schools superintendent, pleaded guilty in June to charges related to a scheme designed to make it appear the district was meeting federal requirements by forcing some students to drop out, preventing some from enrolling, stripping foreign students of credits and sending false data to state and federal agencies.

"The deficiencies identified at the EPISD reflect intentional, unethical, and illegal acts that compromise the basic mission of the Texas education system," the agency's Chief Deputy Commissioner Todd Webster said in its letter to Castanon. "The actions reflect not only an utter disregard for the needs of students served by the district but a willingness to cast aside basic principles ... of instruction and accountability."

The district was ordered to get external accounting, auditing and legal services to identify the structural deficiencies that allowed the improper actions to happen. It will also be required to acquire external services to ensure test administration and security for at least the next school year.

Webster appointed Judy Castleberry as monitor for the district. She will evaluate the district's level of performance on the areas that need to be reviewed.

A school district spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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