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State-Appointed Board Gets Federal Go-Ahead in El Paso

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The El Paso school district's state-appointed board of managers will be sworn into office this week, after the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice said it would not oppose having such a body run the Texas district for up to two years.

State Commissioner of Education Michael L. Williams appointed the board in December to replace the district's elected board of trustees, after a cheating scandal that sent former Superintendent Lorenzo García to jail. But under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the power swap had to be approved by the federal agency.

The district's interim superintendent, Vernon L. Butler, said the new board would find a permanent schools chief and work to re-establish public trust in a district that's recovering from a cheating scheme that affected dozens of students.

The 64,000-student district's elected board has objected to the state's involvement, saying the board and district have made the changes necessary to continue their work effectively.

But many of the board members were in office while Mr. García and at least six unnamed district employees adjusted students' grade levels and placements—and encouraged some students to drop out—in order to manipulate schools' test scores so that school leaders would profit, a scheme that ultimately led to Mr. García's conviction in a federal court on two counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

The new board will consist of Edmund G. Archuleta, the retired head of El Paso Water Utilities; Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria, the city's chief financial officer; Dee Margo, a former Texas state representative; Blanca Enriquez, the executive director of a local Head Start program; and Judy Castleberry, the district's state-appointed monitor.

Vol. 32, Issue 30, Page 5

Published in Print: May 8, 2013, as State-Appointed Board Gets Federal Go-Ahead in El Paso
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