Appointment of a Board of Managers
TEA Commissioner Michael Williams announced on December 6, 2012, that he planned to appoint a five-member board of managers to oversee the El Paso Independent School District for up to two years, effectively stripping the elected board of trustees of its authority.
The commissioner’s action came in the wake of a scandal involving former Superintendent Lorenzo Garcia. In November 2012, federal prosecutors charged Garcia with carrying out measures to inflate test scores so that the district could collect annual bonus funds for goals under the No Child Left Behind Act. Garcia is now in federal prison serving a three-and-a-half-year term. The local newspaper in El Paso repeatedly questioned whether the school board provided adequate oversight and acted swiftly enough to stop Garcia’s fraudulent behavior. In appointing the board of managers, Commissioner Williams said that, although members of the El Paso school board had cooperated fully in TEA’s recommendations for remediation following exposure of the fraud, the board had lost the trust of the community.
TEA submitted a pre-clearance letter under the Voting Rights Act to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on December 6, 2012. The letter was initially rejected as being premature because the matter was not final at the state level. On February 28, 2013, TEA denied El Paso ISD’s record review challenge of the appointment of the board of managers, and on March 1, 2013, TEA resubmitted its preclearance letter. TASB LAF filed a letter brief with the U.S. Department of Justice arguing that replacing the elected board of trustees with an appointed board of managers ran afoul of the Voting Rights Act by having the discriminatory effect of abridging minority voting rights.
On April 26, 2013, the DOJ informed TEA that the U.S. Attorney General did not interpose any objection to the temporary transfer of powers of the elected board of trustees to an appointed board of managers. In re: El Paso Indep. Sch. Dist., No. 2012-5818 (U.S. DOJ Apr. 26, 2013). LAF’s Attorney: Arturo G. Michel, Thompson & Horton, LLP, Houston.