EL PASO, Texas (AP) — An embattled West Texas school board will not fire a top administrator in the wake of a cheating scandal involving a high-stakes test that has already put the district on probation.
The El Paso school board withdrew Tuesday the motion to dismiss an assistant superintendent and started the termination of an assistant high school principal.
The decision not to dismiss assistant superintendent James Anderson "came at the advice of the district's counsel and the outside forensic auditors with the understanding that it may be brought back at a future date," said district's spokesman Vince Perez. Anderson is on paid administrative leave. He was assistant superintendent for high schools at the time when the scheme was carried out.
However, the board voted to start the termination process of Anna Luisa Kell, assistant principal of Bowie High School, where the cheating was found to be most widespread.
The district's overall performance appeared to improve under former district Superintendent Lorenzo Garcia's tenure and he secured more than $56,000 in performance bonuses.
Garcia, who was hired in 2006, implemented a plan with several other administrators that allowed for the pre-testing of 10th-graders to identify those who were likely to fail the standardized tests. The method was intended to keep low-performing students from taking high-stakes state tests used to measure the district's performance under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Garcia was sentenced in October to more than three years in prison after pleading guilty to the scheme. But punishment for other administrators linked to the scandal has come more slowly.
The Texas Education Agency warned the district it should assess harsh punishment to those involved. Last week, the Texas education commissioner named a new district board of trustees. Federal voting rights laws require the new board be approved by the Justice Department.
Commissioner Michael Williams' decision to appoint a new board is the harshest sanction the El Paso district can face before it is shut down and absorbed by another district.
The current board has said they plan to fight Williams' decision.