Top official out at troubled Texas school district

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Associated Press

Posted on December 16, 2012 at 6:04 PM

EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A top administrator for the troubled El Paso school district has resigned in the scrutiny surrounding a test-cheating scheme that sent the former superintendent to prison for organizing a plot to boost personal bonuses by removing underperforming students from class.

The El Paso Times (http://bit.ly/WcPP81) reported that former interim superintendent Terri Jordan resigned Friday and that two other administrators could be fired next week. That decision could be the last by the school board, which the Texas Education Agency is seeking to oust in wake of the testing scandal.

The district is in turmoil over what prosecutors say was a conspiracy to remove low-performing students from classrooms and enrich bonuses for school officials. Jordan was most recently the district's chief of staff.

An attorney for assistant superintendent James Anderson, whose job will be on the line at the school board meeting Tuesday, told the newspaper the action is payback for Anderson being quoted earlier in the Times about his efforts to tell state and district officials about altered student transcripts.

"This is absolutely retaliatory," said Lynn Coyle, Anderson's attorney.

The Times reported that school board members did not return messages for comment.

Vince Perez, a spokesman for the El Paso school district, said he could not confirm whether Jordan's resignation was in response to the cheating scheme. The newspaper reported that Jordan has repeatedly declined to answer questions about whether she knew of the scheme or was involved in efforts to game the accountability system.

In October, ex-superintendent Lorenzo Garcia was sentenced to more than three years in prison after pleading guilty to fraud. Prosecutors say Garcia schemed to prevent hundreds of sophomores from taking the accountability tests, fooling education officials into believing that academic standards had improved.

The appearance of better test scores resulted in a boost in federal funds and personal bonuses totaling at least $56,000.

Tenth-graders who performed poorly on the pre-tests were held back in the ninth grade or promoted to the 11th grade before the state tests were administered. To keep other students from taking the 10th grade tests, the district held those who recently transferred from Mexico in the ninth grade, told older students to leave and obtain a GED elsewhere, and threatened some students with fines for allegedly living in Mexico, outside the El Paso School District's area.

Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Williams warned school district leaders in October that the district faced further sanctions if they did not start taking action against employees who participated in the cheating scheme.

Following that warning, three employees tied to the scheme resigned and two were placed on paid administrative leave. Another retired.

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Information from: El Paso Times, http://www.elpasotimes.com

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