EL PASO, TX — Betrayed and blind-sided, those are the words El Paso Independent School Board President Isela Castañon-Williams said on Wednesday.
She says that she was shocked when former Superintendent Lorenzo Garcia pleaded guilty in a federal courtroom, and says she won't be resigning anytime soon.
Castañon-Williams is getting pressure to resign, but says she's done nothing wrong. She blames many of the schools' problems today on Texas laws that place limits on school board members.
When former Superintendent Lorenzo Garcia pled guilty to fraud and conspiracy, Castañon-Williams immediately blamed a 2010 Texas Education Agency investigation which concluded, " Based on the documentation, there is insufficient evidence..." in regards to tampering with test scores at Bowie High School in 2007.
"School board members cannot go into offices and say to an employee, I want you to open up that filing cabinet. I want you to produce data for me. That is clearly a violation of law. It's called micro-managing,” said Castañon- Williams.
Castañon-Williams says she would have filed a motion to fire Garcia if the T.E.A or The U.S. Department of Education had discovered violations.
"It wasn't like, ‘oh my goodness you've all been found out.’ I mean we knew and so did the community. I mean everyone was talking about you know, getting questioned by the FBI, so it was not a big secret here,” said Castañon- Williams.
She says she's in office on a flat form of trust, something she says Garcia lacked.
"Oh absolutely Dr. Garcia betrayed the trust of the board,” said Castañon- Williams.
In an open letter to EPISD, County Judge Veronica Escobar and 23 other county and city officials have asked the district to change the way board trustees are chosen, so the true majority wins the vote.
City Representative Ann Morgan Lilly says that the city might not legally be able to take the district over, but it's that kind of thinking that might fix the problems.
"I'm trying to think about of the box because what's happening isn't working, and it's hurting our students and it's hurting the whole city,” said Lilly.
Lilly also says school board members must have known about the actions of Garcia, and they simply drew a blind eye. She would be pleased if the board backed down.
Lily also says when new businesses come to El Paso, they ask about the school system. She says that she’s afraid EPISD’s problems might scare away business.
Mayor John Cook is standing behind Castañon-Williams and says there were failures on higher levels, not the school board.
"The same people who are asking for resignation for school board members should therefore be asking for the resignation of everybody on T.E.A and everybody in the Department of Education from the federal government,” said Cook.
Castañon-Williams also says Garcia didn't want her in office, and endorsed her opponent, so the distance between them gave her no opportunity to know about his illegal actions.