Open Letter To New El Paso ISD Superintendent – Here’s What You Shouldn’t Do
On Monday night, the El Paso Independent School District named you, Diana Sayavedra, the only finalist for the EPISD top job. You're from the Fort Bend Independent School District just outside of Houston, but what do you really know about EPISD?
A TAXPAYER'S TAKE
You know what the board told you but here's what I think about our district as a taxpaying member.
This will be the second EPISD superintendent in the 15 years I've been doing Mike and Tricia Mornings. Doesn't sound too bad, does it? Well it is. Both of those superintendents left in disgrace, one went to prison and his shenanigans required the Texas Education Agency to take over the EPISD school board for a time before we got the superintendent that you are replacing. I'll tell you more about him and our most recent superintendent. As you can see this is a troubled district so you should buckle up because it's going to be a bumpy ride.
HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Here are a couple of things you should know.
1. Lorenzo Garcia went to prison for his antics at EPISD - He funneled a 450 thousand dollar contract to his girlfriend that was in reality only worth about 150 thousand dollars. He also fixed TAKS test scores by moving kids to different grade levels, not letting kids enroll in EPISD schools, and telling even more district employees to "do whatever they had to do" to make sure the district's TAKS test scores made him look good. There were bonuses that were tied to good TAKS test scores, and he wanted those bonuses. You can read all about it here.
2. Five Garcia associates were also caught up - Garcia didn't do all this alone. He had help and they also got taken down. Read about that here.
3. Things got really bad - The Texas Education Agency was so fed up with the school board for not investigating district employees for their roles in Lorenzo Garcia's TAKS test fixing scheme that landed him in federal prison for 3 years that they took over the board. That doesn't happen all the time but that should tell you a little bit about the confidence level that the EPISD board had.
4. The next superintendent was only marginally better - Juan Cabrera, the guy you're replacing, and former school board member, Dori Fenenbock, were accused of defrauding millions of dollars from investors in an a California based online school they were trying to launch while Cabrera was still EPISD superintendent. A lawsuit against them claims that Cabrera "promised to resign from his role as superintendent" and secure a $5 million investment in eSchool Prep. The investors made their $5 million investment but were forced out of the deal and only paid a settlement of $483,000. The investors say Cabrera and Fenenbock won't return their original $5 million dollars nor will they say where the money went. It's all pretty convoluted but you can click here for more.
NOT HOLDING MY BREATH
As you can see, this district has a pretty sketchy past and as a taxpayer, I'm not holding my breath that you, or for that matter, anyone the board had picked would be a good superintendent. You can read here about what one of our board members was doing while the search was on. It involves one of the finalists being her boss and her potentially voting on his employment with EPISD. Yeah. I'm not kidding.
Good luck in your job. I hope you don't mess it up as badly as your predecessors have.