EPISD Board of Managers

One of the things about commenting on the political scene is the fact that in a Democracy the human factor is still very much in play. I believe that most everyone would agree that the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) is so corrupted that to allow any of the elected officials to remain in place would not have solved any of the problems and would just have exasperated them. Personally I believe that the corruption is so rampant within the school district, and yes I mean to state “is” instead of “was”, that nothing short of a full cleansing of the system is what it would take to cleanse the corruption permeating within the district. Unfortunately to cleanse the system would require dismantling the whole apparatus and reinstituting it from the ground up. And this is where we run into the problem of Democracy.

The problem is that human nature, being what it is, will corrupt any process or system making any type of collective or organization that is fair to the community dead on arrival. Therefore we are left with trying to balance the needs of the collective with those that it purports to serve. In the case of EPISD the State of Texas with its own failed political processes stepped in and suspended that community’s representation in order to cleanse the system. In so doing the State instituted the Board of Managers.

Unfortunately the same political gamesmanship that allowed the corruption to metastasize across the institution is the same one spearheading the cleansing of the system by appointing selected individuals to suspend the elected body. Before anyone starts to bellyache about my alleging that corruption is emanating from the existing Board of Managers take one-step back and let me finish my thought.

Corruption is generally narrowly defined as a criminal activity usually involving taxpayer monies. However public corruption is much more than that. Its larger definition is normally ignored because either the problem is too difficult to solve or it is convenient to ignore. For example consider the following.

Government entities create budgets and publicly approve of them. Because political entities are not supposed to make a profit and only take from the taxpayers’ what is needed to accomplish a goal a game has developed whereby government entities inflate budgets during the budget process and then play a game of how fast can we spend the left over money at the end of the fiscal year.

Any business that deals with government entities knows that the best time to get purchase orders issued are at the end of the fiscal periods of the government entities. Department heads within governmental bodies know that if they don’t spend the monies allocated to them then they’ll receive a smaller budget for the next budget cycle. Thus the mind set of “let’s spend all of the money now” becomes part of the collective trickling down from the highest levels to the lowest.

What should happen is that any monies not used by the taxing entity should be returned to the taxpayers but no government entity wants to set that precedent so purchase orders are issued and corruption becomes a way of life. There are many more examples of this I can share with you however I believe that you understand how I define corruption.

Thus a system that allows purchase orders to be issued because they don’t want their allocated budgets to be cut in the future is hardly the system that promotes good governance and definitely not the system we would want to be cleansing EPISD.

However there is no perfect system and thus the community is left with the “foxes guarding the hen house”.

I honestly do not know of a better way to deal with the corrupt fiasco that is EPISD. As much as I dislike the process of the Board of Managers because community representation has been set aside I cannot think of a better way to resolve the issue of EPISD. However because the system is imperfect and the players each have their own political posturing to play not to mention the cleansing taking place there are issues that need to be addressed.

I do not understand the full scope of the corrupted core that took a hold of EPISD. Like you I know about the legacy of Lorenzo Garcia and the associated trustees. For years there have been other allegations levied against previous superintendents and other political shenanigans. Dan Weaver and his wife have for years being pointing out corrupt practices at EPISD and in fact Dan Weaver has shared some information with me lately that I’m studying for an upcoming piece. Other than that I have looked at EPISD’s involvement with the Community Scholars and that is about it. Therefore I clearly do not understand the full scope of the problems with EPISD.

Through all of that former and current local politicians have been positioning themselves around the Board of Managers each posturing support or concern depending on how the public sentiment seems to be for that day. Also the fact that the suspended elected body of trustees includes trustees that were seated when Lorenzo Garcia was disappearing students or paying his mistress and that Susie Byrd has been elected to fill one of those positions makes me feel like the Board of Managers is the lesser of the two evils.

However when Democracy is suspended the question of whether all appropriate stakeholders are properly represented should be of upmost concern to the community. Xavier Miranda, an educator at EPISD, has been actively seeking to engage the Board of Managers with the educators of the school district. As part of his outreach to the community he has contacted various outlets to disseminate his concerns, including me. He has also provided me copies of communications he has sent to the Board of Managers and the new superintendent.

As I understand it, Miranda’s issue with the Board of Managers is that there is an absence of the process of Democracy. According to his explanation to me, the Board of Managers and the new superintendent have instituted a process has resulted in the “suspension of democracy”.

In an email sent to Juan Cabrera on October 24, 2013, a copy of which Xavier Miranda has provided me, Miranda details issues that those he represents have with the current situation at EPISD. According to him, he represents “engaged district employees, parents and community members”. The email he shared with me explains eight concerns they have.

The first is the notion that the “culture of intimidation” that allowed Lorenzo Garcia to corrupt the process could be duplicated once again under Cabrera because of the “authority granted by the Board of Managers…to hire and fire” employees. Miranda’s email also expresses that some employees’ feel that Cabrera’s lack of educational credentials somehow might diminish “educators’ certification requirements”.

Miranda goes on to write that the superintendent’s “networking typically entails golfing with local politicians and business leaders” adding that he is asking that “equitable time be given to educators to solicit authentic education reform and subsequent implementation of viable policies and practices”.

The email then goes on to round out the traditional management versus employee grievances found in most top-to-bottom management models by writing that the “merit pay model for administrators” could lead to administrators dictating curriculum instead of teachers. He also points out that Dee Margo is “unfriendly” to educators, that according to him, is evidenced by his support for charter schools and cutting educational budgets while in elected office.

The rest of the issues pointed out by Xavier Miranda center on the technical educational models that I am not equipped to understand much less comment on.

Xavier has been keeping me up to date on the issues he, and those working with him, perceive to be a problem. Although I fully understand the notion of “having a voice at the table” and the assertion that representation is the core of a Democracy I nonetheless expressed to him my unease on commenting on this issue simply because I don’t think there is a better option than the Board of Managers.

Frankly I do not see the current crop of elected officials waiting to assume their governing duties as having the wherewithal to solve the problems at EPISD. In my opinion seating a dysfunctional elected body would make things worse than better.

At the same time it appears, to me, that “fixing” the issues at EPISD through a politically appointed board that is made of individuals that seem to be posturing for political futures raises concerns for me at various levels.

The truth is, though, that I can’t offer a better solution. And yet I don’t fully understand the full scope of what’s going on and therefore it is imperative that as many of the voices as possible be allowed to be heard.

One of the goals of my blog is to instill a sense of community activism in as many people as possible. There is no right or wrong activism there is just political engagement. As such there are many dynamics and positions posturing for a place at the table.

Therefore I not only encourage political engagement I ask that each of you that finds the issues at EPISD important enough to make the time to properly understand the issues and offer solutions.

According to Xavier Miranda there is an “EPISD Superintendent Town Hall” at the Coronado High School Fine Arts Theater scheduled for, tomorrow, November 12, 2013 at 5:30 in the afternoon. Miranda wrote to me that “quite a few educators have expressed an interest in attending”. He has also shared with me that “it would be beneficial if the Board of Managers” were to attend, as well as the “duly elected School Board Trustees” to see what the “community has to contribute”.

I asked him what he hopes to accomplish and he replied that it was his hope “that educators and parents are allowed to be partners in designing educational models” that serve the kids.

The more of you that attend the better the community discussion would be on this issue. Unfortunately I do not fully comprehend the whole scope of the issues however the more of you that get involved the better the community would be.