Former Beaumont ISD Employee Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Make False Statements

Published 3:37 pm Wednesday, December 23, 2015

BEAUMONT, Texas – A former Beaumont Independent School District (BISD) teacher has pleaded guilty to federal charges in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales today.
Victoria Gauthier Steward, 31, of Lake Charles, LA, pleaded guilty in federal court today to a charge of conspiracy to make false statements.  Steward was indicted in February, 2015, along with her co-defendant, Patricia Lambert.
 According to information presented in Court, Steward was employed by BISD starting in 2007 as a math teacher, and was assigned to the Central Medical Magnet High School (CMMHS) under Principal Patricia Lambert.  Soon after beginning at CMMHS, Lambert created the position of “numeracy coach,” for Steward, where Steward provided instructional support for the teachers, although she was still designated as a teacher by BISD.  During that time, Steward was assigned various roles related to the administration of standardized tests.  Specifically, Steward was assigned to oversee testing of students in large groups.  Between 2007 and 2012, Steward signed multiple Oaths of Test Security, in which she affirmed that she “complied with all the requirements governing the State Assessment Program and that [she] reported any suspected violations of test security or confidentiality to the campus testing coordinator.  However, as Steward was well aware, teachers routinely manipulated standardized test scores by various methods.  For example, witnesses would testify that teachers would aggregate large numbers of tests and then erase and change incorrect answers to correct answers after students turned in their tests; teachers would give students answers while they were taking the tests; and that test manipulation occurred on a regular basis from 2007-2012.  Steward was aware of the fact that teachers were changing answers on a state mandated TAKS test in April of 2011.  Steward was aware that Patricia Lambert also knew that teachers were improperly changing students’ answers.  Nonetheless, at Lambert’s direction, Steward was provided with an Oath of Test Security in April and May of 2011, which Steward knew to be false.
 The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is mandated by the US Department of Education to administer and regulate standardized testing, including maintaining test security.  As part of its test security measures, TEA requires that teachers abide by all test security regulations and sign Oaths of Test Security.  These test scores are then communicated to the US Department of Education, who relies on the scores, among other metrics, in determining the appropriate disbursement of federal education funds.  The falsified oaths were capable of misleading TEA or the US Department of Education.
Steward faces a sentence of not more than five years in prison, a fine not to exceed $250,000, and a term of supervised release of not more than three years.  She could also be ordered to pay restitution in an amount determined by the Court.  A sentencing date has not been determined.
This case was prosecuted as part of the Joint Task Force established in March 2014 between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas and the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office to investigate and prosecute major crimes – more specifically, violent crime and crimes related to the abuse of public trust in Jefferson County, Texas.
 If you have any information related to this matter, please call the Federal Bureau of Investigation at 409-832-8571.
 This investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Education Office of Inspector General, the Texas Education Agency, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office and the Beaumont Police Department.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher T. Tortorice and Joseph R. Batte.