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Home | Tag Archives: episd cheating scandal

Tag Archives: episd cheating scandal

Federal Judge Grants Mistrial in EPISD Trial

U.S. Federal Judge David Briones granted a mistrial motion by defense lawyers in the case of five former El Paso Independent School District administrators.

On Wednesday morning, after two weeks of testimony, defense lawyers for James Anderson, Mark Philip Tegmeyer, Nancy Love, Diane Thomas and John Tanner made their case before Judge Briones, stating that the U.S. District Attorneys had not made more than 249 pages available to them regarding information that could have been used to cross examine witnesses regarding an Austin High School auto shop teacher, Ruben Cordero and counselor Elizabeth Saucedo.

These documents were made available to them by email on late Sunday afternoon, according to the motion filed by defense attorneys Robert J. Perez, Elizabeth Rogers, Thomas W. Mills, Luis Islas, Sherilyn A. Bunn, and Mary Stillinger.

Initially, the motion for a mistrial was addressed on Monday by Briones, who had decided to give the defense counsel a day to review the documents that the District Attorneys provided them.

On Tuesday, the trial continued as usual with Saucedo and Austin High School Rosario Parsley testifying.

A somber, U.S. Attorney Debra Kanof spoke and broke into tears as she made her statement.

“This is very embarrassing,” Kanof said. “My counsel and I feel bad about this. And in our very long careers we have never had this happened. A great deal of time and money was spent and we leave it to the discretion of the court.”

Briones spoke to the attorney and attempted to lighten the mood.

“Believe me, I can’t and I don’t want to retry this again,” Briones said. “Ugh, can I transfer it to another judge? No, I would not settle for another judge. It will be me and it will be retried. I grant the motion for mistrial.”

The case will be re-tried at a future date.

Previous stories HERE

EPISD Cheating Scheme Trial: Vanessa Foreman Testifies on Methods of Cheating Accountability

As the trial of former El Paso ISD Administrators continued in U.S. District Court, testimony presented Tuesday indicated that evidence of irregularities and disappearing 10th graders at the El Paso Independent School District began popping up in the Spring of 2009.

Then questions from the FBI put pressure on district administrators, causing then-superintendent Lorenzo Garcia pressure his co-conspirators to sign prepared affidavits stating they and the district had not done anything unlawful.

On Tuesday, former Jefferson High School Assistant Principal Mairbel Guillen and Vanessa Foreman, a former Priority Schools Division Director for the district, testified.

Foreman, who pled guilty in June 2016 to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, offered her testimony in the hopes of receiving probation.  Foreman’s final sentence will be determined on July 11 by U.S. District Court Judge David Briones.

She was among several co-conspirators in the district scheme to defraud the United States. Others who pled guilty last year include former Associate Superintendent of Priority Schools Damon Murphy, who testified last week; and Assistant Principal Maria Flores.

Former EPISD administrators facing charges for their involvement in the scheme are Nancy Love, Diane Thomas and Mark Philip Tegmeyer, assistant principals at Austin High School; James Anderson, Associate Superintendent and John Tanner, principal at Austin High School.

Through the use of minimesters, falsifying grades, discouraging enrollment and other credit recovery methods, several individuals attempted to skirt state ad federal accountability measures.

Former Jefferson High School Principal Steven Lane had testified on Monday.

According to media reports of his testimony, Lane had testified that he was against the use of minimesters and had called them “a joke.”

Students at Jefferson High School that were limited English Proficient were given methods to receive credits to help them graduate. Students, who were to also enter into the 10th grade that could be a risk to accountability had been discouraged to register.

Lane was fired by Garcia when he refused to be part of the scheme. He was later reinstated, and then fired again a few months later. Lane had been speaking to the FBI -and that was the subject that interested the district.

On Tuesday, Guillen, who had worked under Lane, said she was called into Central Office and asked in a meeting about her conversations with FBI agents and if she knew

anything about Lane’s conversations with them.

Guillen said she was questioned by Ron Ederer, the school district attorney and Anderson. During a second meeting, an affidavit had been prepared for her to sign. It stated that the district had not done anything wrong; and that she had no knowledge of wrong doing.

Guillen said she refused to sign it.

“I didn’t sign it because it was not accurate,” Guillen said.

Like Guillen, Foreman had also been called in to sign a prepared affidavit. Foreman too refused to sign it, but began to feel pressure by Anderson to do so.

“I didn’t sign it because it seemed like it was more for the district than it was for us,” she said.

At one point during her meeting with Ederer he had a tape recorder on, then turned it off and asked her,”What did you do?”

Foreman said she felt uneasy. So, instead of signing the affidavit before her, Foreman left, and opted to make her own statement.

During Foreman’s testimony she said she believed what she was doing was wrong butnot “unlawful” until she was questioned by the FBI. Foreman also stated that she felt intimidated by the FBI.

During cross examination Robert Perez, attorney for Anderson, asked why she felt uneasy about the FBI.

“I felt like they were getting frustrated because they would ask me things that I didn’t know much about, and I felt I should have because of my position.” She added that at times the agents would make frustrated faces.

Foreman then put a stop to the interview with the FBI when questions revolving a grade came up.

Something Amiss

As minimesters were implemented, credits rewarded and students withheld from taking the TAKS test, several administrators began to notice that something was awry.

Brenda Booth, director of assessment at EPISD was charged with the ordering and distribution of standardized tests for the district while working at Region 19. Booth was charged with specifically test assessment and administering credit by exam, bilingual testing, gifted and talented testing and training at the Educational Service Center at Region 19.

During the 2009 school year Booth said she noticed that 48 students from Austin High School had been jumped from the 10th to the 11th grade without having taken the TAKS. Overall, Booth said that there were more than 600 students in the district that were classified the same way.

“I shared my concerns with my supervisor and Dr. Damon Murphy,” she said. “I wasvery strongly voicing my opinion to them because of the logistical nightmare this would cause in testing.”

During a meeting with Murphy, Anderson, Associate Superintendent of Research and Evaluation Joseph Lopez, Gina Oaxaca and Adela Montoya, Booth told Murphy that the reclassification of students was unethical.

“He then said he had not been told by Ms. Oaxaca that it was not allowable,”Booth said. “We disagreed strongly.”

Booth said she and her supervisor, Dr. James Steinhauser called the Texas Education Agency regarding the issue of the untested students.

Later, when the El Paso Times reported on allegations from Texas Senator Eliot Shapleigh that indicated the district was “disappearing” students to skirt accountability measures, the TEA contacted Booth and asked that she look into it.

“They had a tax election coming up and they wanted me to look into this,” Booth said citing that the agency wanted good press.

Booth said she told Steinhauser about TEA’s request. Steinhauser then contacted Terri Jordan,former chief of staff. (Jordan was later named interim when Garcia was arrested, but resigned when her involvement in the scheme was revealed.)

Jordan directed that Booth turn the investigation over to Anderson and provide him with TEA’s number.

Anderson then told her he would request that TEA conduct an audit.

Booth added that she had expressed her concerns early in 2008 as well when Damon Murphy had launched a pilot program in an effort to speed up the process of testing students out of Limited English Proficiency classes by testing them mid-year instead of at the end of the year as was commonly practiced.

Students who went through this pilot program took the Stanford Limited English Proficiency test, were assessed on their verbal skills and their written skills based on their previous performance on any TAKS test, and writing sample from their courses. Through this pilot program a large majority passing, thereby re-categorizing them from 10th graders to 11th graders mid-year and avoiding their requirement to take the TAKS test.

“I remember that I voiced my concerns when students were being changed mid-year,” Booth said.

Jefferson and Austin High School

Prior to taking on her role as Director of Priority Schools, with Jefferson and later Austin High School under her purview, Foreman was teaching at the elementary school level. She later moved up and as an assistant principal and later principal in that realm.

Then Damon Murphy asked her to apply for the position of Director of Priority Schools. Foreman was not interested believing that the role would restrict her to Central Office.

Murphy later approached her again and during a meeting told her she would not be stuck at Central Office. Foreman applied and awarded the position of Director of Priority schools with Anderson as her direct supervisor.

During her third year she was given her first high school to get out of Accountability Jail. It was Jefferson High School.

“I was not received well by Dr. Lane, who was the principal at the time because he said I didn’t have any high school experience,” she said. She added that Anderson did not like Lane and would always complain about him.

“There were numerous things that would come up, it was always something,” Foreman said. “I know that Dr. Lane would get verbal and written reprimands.”

Foreman said Anderson’s concern at Jefferson High School was maintaining the LEP population. She added that the concern was over the pilot program that Murphy had implemented.

In an email dated Sept. 23, 2009, Anderson told directors, “To have all the (LEP) students exited and reclassified by the PEIMS snapshot date.”

The PEIMS snapshot provides demographic information from each district’s campus to the TEA. That demographic information includes race, nationality, and subgroups such as Limited English Proficiency students, and students classified as Special needs or SpED.

Foreman added that there was pressure to “upsccore” the students’ grade in the pilot program during their assessments in the pilot program, in an effort to get them out of LEP. When asked if taking students out of LEP, when they weren’t ready, would harm them. Foreman answered affirmatively.

When asked if students who skipped the 10th grade or if students who were held back in the 9th grade were at risk, Foreman said yes.

“Students who repeated the 9th grade are at higher risk to drop out and LEP students are at risk to begin with,” she said.

Minimesters also proved to be a problem. First, Foreman said that grading was very subjective and there was no guide to determine mastery of a subject. An exhibit presented to the jury showed that students who took the minimester course at Jefferson High School received a grade of 70.

During cross examination Perez asked Foreman if she thought it was strange, given that grades were subjective.

“Why would they all be 70s?” Perez asked.

“I have no idea,” Foreman said. “It doesn’t make sense. It just appears like a bunch of 70s.”

Foreman said Dr. Lane was concerned over the use of minimesters to obtain credit, and discussed summer school as the better option.

Shortly after, Lane had been removed from the school.

Foreman said she found out about his removal during a lunch with Priscilla Terrazas, a former director of priority schools, and a friend at Pelican’s Restaurant. When she returned to Central Office Dr. Garcia and Anderson asked her to write a letter about Lane citing how he had been counter productive.

“They denied that he had been walked out of the school by the campus police,” Foreman said. “They said ‘no, that’s not what happened.”

Foreman did write some comments in a memo concerning Lane, but she didn’t the comments would classify Lane as worthy of termination.

Attendance and Credit Issues

Other issues regarding attendance also emerged as Assistant Principals signed off on documents that rewarded credit to students who had been present 75 percent or less during the school year.

This was occurring at other high schools that came under the charge of Foreman. They included Irvin, Andres, Austin and Burges. “This was against the law,” Foreman said. She then recalled talking to Burges High School Principal Randall Woods.

“I told him that the practice of signing off credit was not following education code. But apparently he did not follow the directive based on the Weaver Report showing that numerous credits had been restored.”

When Foreman approached Anderson with the issue, he said, it was the principal’s prerogative and it was policy.

Then at Austin, in 2012, Assistant Principal Diane Thomas sought help in finding missing credits for seniors. “Ms. Thomas needed help to restore credits to seniors that had already graduated.”

Under the direction of Anderson, Foreman conducted an audit from June 2012 to November 2012 with principal Tanner at Austin High School. Foreman said her initial findings, without Tanner, found 110 seniors were missing core credits. With that, she then asked questions and told administrators at Austin High School that they needed to pull records in the event that they made mistakes.

“I also suggested that the AP should pick up diplomas,” Foreman said.

Tanner, who was out of town on a school trip, called Foreman and told her to get out of his school and not request that any diplomas be returned. Foreman left the school and spoke to Anderson, who said to wait for Tanner’s return.

From then on Foreman would receive help from the district’s internal auditing department, who trained her what to look for in student transcripts.

During Tuesday’s testimony, Foreman repeatedly stated that she herself was not an auditor, did not have any auditing experience. Foreman requested documents and ran into issues at times.

“I’m not an auditor,” Foreman said. “I did the best and most I could to the best of my ability given my skills set.”

Paperwork as in disarray, records were missing dates and signatures. She would then leave the campus, and the next time she returned all the documents she needed were there.

“Sometimes it was strange, sometimes there were duplicates of documents,” Foreman said.

This process continued for several months until 108 seniors’ credits were accounted for, but Foreman added that the issue did not get resolved.

“Dr. Tanner and I didn’t agree on what happened as Anderson had instructed us to do so,” Foreman said.  “Then I wrote something and was giving it to Anderson but then he was removed. So then I tried giving it to Mr. Jose Baca, but then Mr. Baca left and Tanner was removed because of the Weaver audit. Then reinstated then removed again.” Then, Foreman added, she was terminated.

Foreman testified that she has not seen the audit since she was removed from the campus.

During cross examination by Robert Perez, Anderson’s attorney, he asked whether Lane was at times not on campus. Foreman answered that sometimes that was the case.

Testimony from Cheryl Felder, Director of Student and Parent Services at the district followed.

In her testimony Felder said she and Mark Mendoza, current head of the EPISD truancy department, looked into parent complaints in 2008. The complaints consisted of students being denied enrollment at Bowie High School and having students withdraw if disciplinary issues arose.

Felder said training was conducted at Bowie High School so that counselors and administrators could follow proper procedure. Felder had also helped Foreman with her audit of Austin High School.

Previous story HERE; All previous coverage HERE

Damon Murphy Testifies: Getting out of ‘Accountability Jail’ was Priority

Jurors heard seven witnesses on Tuesday in the case against five former El Paso Independent School District administrators, connected with a cheating scheme that held back hundreds of students in the ninth grade, in an effort to cheat state accountability standards.

Among those brought to testify was former Associate Superintendent of Priority Schools, Damon Murphy who said he was responsible for insuring that sanctioned schools, or schools that did not meet state or federal accountability standards, “got out of accountability jail.”

Murphy pled guilty in January to one count of conspiracy to defraud the federal government. His testimony on Tuesday came later in the afternoon.

The former EPISD administrators facing several charges in connection with the scheme are Nancy Love, Dianne Thomas, Mark Philip Tegmeyer, James Anderson, and John Tanner.

Anderson, former EPISD Associate Superintendent is facing one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, attempt and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and providing false statements to investigators.

Tanner, former principal at Austin High School and Tegmeyer, a former assistant principal at the same high school, are charged  with conspiracy to defraud the United States, attempt and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, frauds and swindles, and retaliating against a witness or victim.

U.S. District Judge David Briones is presiding over the case.

During Murphy’s testimony, which came late in the afternoon, Murphy detailed how he came to know former EPISD Superintendent Lorenzo Garcia and how he gained the position of associate superintendent of priority schools at EPISD from 2006 to 2008. Garcia was arrested by the FBI and charged in August 2011 for steering a $450,000 no- bid contract to his mistress and inflating student grade scores in an effort to cheat federal accountability measures.

In November 2011, Garcia resigned as superintendent from the district.

Garcia was initially sentenced to 3 ½ years in a federal prison after he plead guilty to two counts of fraud. But his sentence was shorted to 2 ½ years after he participated in a drug counseling program.

Murphy said he conspired with Garcia and other co-conspirators in the case. Part of Murphy’s plea agreement included assisting the U.S. government with the case.

“There wasn’t a week that went by that if TEA would have been there, they would of freaked out,” Murphy said.

U.S. District Attorney Debra Kanof questioned Murphy about his involvement in the cheating scheme. Murphy stated that he knew Garcia from his days when he taught in Houston, Texas in the Spring Branch ISD. At the time Murphy applied for the position of a middle school principal but did not get it. Lorenzo had been part of the hiring committee, and had later reached out to Murphy and asked him to reapply once a position opens.

“Garcia took a liking to me,” Murphy said. “I didn’t get the job then, but Garcia said I’d have a good chance of getting in.”

As Murphy progressed in his career as an educator and an administrator in the Spring Branch district, Garcia left and moved to Dallas where he became an associate superintendent at the Dallas ISD. Murphy had stayed in touch with Garcia, who often gave him leads into new positions that became available. Murphy told the jury that he was interested because his family lived in Dallas.

Murphy would apply and reapply for available positions, without results. Then in 2006, Garcia became the Superintendent of EPISD, and reached out to Murphy.

“He said he had three associate superintendent openings, and he basically said, I can hook you up with one.”

Kanof then asked what happened next and whether Murphy was qualified for the position.

“I was thrilled, and no I was not qualified,” Murphy said.

Murphy added that he had watched Garcia’s career and wanted to follow his led. He was a man with ambition.

“It was limitless,” Murphy said referring to Garcia’s ambition. “He said he wanted to become the Commissioner of Education in Texas.”

Accountability Jail

As associate superintendent of priority schools Murphy said he was given orders to get the failing schools out of accountability jail and stop the sanctions that were coming year after year. His position, Murphy said, had been created to fulfill this.

Murphy recalled that there were about 22 schools, a mix of elementary, middle school and several high schools, that were sanctioned at the time he arrived at EPISD.

Kanof asked if Murphy had been instructed on how to get the schools to meet the standards.

“We implemented a myriad of programs to the schools to get them out,” Murphy said. “Garcia took $1 million and asked me to hire a staff of directors and coordinators for this new division to assist in the improvement of these priority schools.”

Murphy was charged with hiring Priority School Directors, a new positions, that in theory were equal to that of principals at the high school.

“But in practice the director had the final say.” Murphy said. Murphy hired several directors including Maria Flores and Vanessa Foreman.

Foreman and Flores both plead guilty in June 2016 to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Kanof asked if a principal’s career would be at risk if they did not adhere to the directions of the Priority School Directors. Murphy answered that it could.

“Were any principals fired?” Kanof asked.

Murphy answered yes.

In an effort to get out of “accountability jail,” Murphy said he was directed to draw up a letter that indicated that any student that took the 10th Grade TAKS test did not have to take it again once they took it, regardless on whether they had passed it. The letter was written by Murphy and Robert Ortega, the associate superintendent for secondary schools.

If they failed it, they didn’t have to take it again, and could be moved to the 11th grade.

Another method to skirt accountability measures was giving students an additional 1/2 credit during so that they could be classified as 11th graders based on credits alone.

“We did this ad-nauseam,” Murphy said referring to providing additional credits. “And we decreased the 10th grade numbers across the entire division. So, we had a more focused group of 10th graders to take the test.”

Murphy went onto explain how students who failed the test or their classes could lead to ramifications for the district.

“There were students who were 2nd year sophomores, so they failed a bunch of classes their sophomore year, and the following Fall, they came back as sophomores,” Murphy said. “So, this is a problem because they are low performers and that would hit us when they take the test again.”

Later, Murphy sought Myrna Gamboa, who later became the campus director of Bowie High School.

Murphy said he spoke with Gamboa about getting Bowie High School out of “accountability jail.”

“I told her that the LEP numbers (Limited English Proficient students) were high and that we needed to decrease the LEP population and decrease the special education population and move these numbers to have a better shot of the 10th grade being successful.”

If Gamboa did not meet these requirements, Murphy told her, “All of our jobs are in peril.”

As a result, Gamboa changed the grades of failing students at Bowie High School, but Murphy added that he didn’t tell her to do that.

Murphy clarified that not all directors or principals who did not meet standards lost their jobs. “It was ultimately at the whims of Dr. Garcia.”

Kanof then presented an email written by Murphy to his campus directors, to the jury.

The email detailed information regarding a summation of Garcia’s meeting with Sylvia Atkinson, former superintendent of Socorro ISD, who told him that SISD was stopping Mexican National students from receiving transfer credits.

The memo Murphy wrote, stated that Garcia wanted EPISD to do the same thing.

Actions that are contrary to state law, which requires students to receive their transferred credits.

Kanof asked whether this could have affected military families. “It certainly might have, but that wasn’t our thinking. But specific cases could bereviewed and promptly awarded credit,” Murphy said.

“So it meant Mexico?” Kanof asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” Murphy said.

Standards

Pressure from the state and federal government prompted such measures, Murphy said in his testimony. However, complying to the federal accountability measures in order to receive Title I funds is voluntary.

The standardized test, given to students in the 10th grade were required to take to evaluate their progress in reading, writing, social studies, math and science. The selection of the grade level is left up to the state.

In measuring success, the Department of Education also takes into account students that are labeled as “subgroups” or students that were “special needs, Limited English Proficient, Special Education, economically disadvantaged; Hispanic, Caucasian and African-American.

If 50 or more students at each campus were classified in these subgroups, the district is required to report them for accountability purposes. However, if a subgroup at a campus fell below 50 students, then that subgroup is not taken into account and the campus has a greater chance of meeting federal accountability standards through the standardized  test.

On Tuesday, Carlos Martinez, of the U.S. Department of Education, provided a detail account of how the federal government, relies on state assessment data to be reliable and true.

Martinez’s leads the Standards Assessments and Accountability Group. Throughout his time at the U.S Department of Education he has analyzed data pertaining to the Limited English Proficient populations, or English Language Learners.

During his testimony Martinez said that the standardized test, or rather the reason for No Child Left Behind, was to ensure equity in all schools.

Schools that were seen to be at risk of failing, due to economic hardship could “level the playing field” with the use of Title I funds from the federal government.

In addition, he added that being part of these measures to improve ones school under the No Child Left Behind Act, was voluntary. States did not have to participate. If states choose to receive these funds meant to improve their schools, all students must take the test to measure success.

“Every student has to take the test, but certain accommodations can be made for LEP students and SPED and students with disabilities,” Martinez said.

In addition, while the federal government could advise the states they could not decide how to assess each state’s students. Again, Martinez added it was up to the state’s legislature and that under no circumstance did the federal government step in to tell the states how to run their schools.

From 2006 to 2013 the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test was selected as the state standardized test in Texas.

If a school or district failed to meet the standard, there were various stages of corrective measures that could be taken. If a school reaches stage 5 then the leadership in the school can change and the school can reopen up as a charter school, Martinez said.

Martinez was not made aware of any irregularities occurring at the El Paso Independent School District until then, State Senator Eliot Shapleigh wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Education alleging that the district’s was disappearing students at Bowie High School.

Martinez did not provide the details of the letter, as objections were raised by James Anderson’s Attorney, Robert J. Perez.

However, Martinez was allowed to continue to describe what he did next, following the Shapleigh’s letter.

“I then went to analyze the data, as Shapleigh alleged, to compare the data,” Martinez said. “And I wasn’t provided with a comparison, so I compared the numbers of LEP students from Bowie High School, to the number of LEP students at Riverside High School.”

Riverside High School is in the Ysleta district. Martinez explained that he decided to compare the two because he was looking for a school that was comparable to that of Bowie High School. Riverside, Martinez said, had roughly the same number of students, with roughly the same demographics and was close to the border.

His findings in the comparison coaborated Eliot’s allegations.

During cross examination Perez asked whether not following the standards set forth by the federal or state governments was punishable by criminal penalty.

“Nowhere in the act is there a criminal penalty?” Perez asked.

Martinez responded in the affirmative. “Not within the act, is there a criminal penalty.”

The Weaver Audit

Bill Brown, formerly of Weaver and Tidwell, the audit firm out of Austin who conducted an investigation on EPISD, testified that data pulled from the district showed significant increases in 11th graders, and significant decreases in the number special education students at Austin High School.

The investigation by Weaver and Tidwell was conducted in 2012 after the Texas Education Agency ordered the district to conduct an investigation after they became aware of allegations of a possible scheme at EPISD. The Weaver Audit was released in April 2013.

Brown said during his investigation he also found that attendance records had been manually overridden, thereby indicating that a student, who may have had a number of absences, was now present.

Brown recalled seeing that more than 700 forms had been filled out and signed by James Tanner.

In one example, the state showed a form that indicated a student, who had been approved to pass onto the next grade level, had grades as low as 45 and 13, and had failed all their courses. But Tanner’s signature, shown in the document, allowed for the student to move forward.

On the defensive Tanner’s lawyer, Elizabeth Rogers, asked whether the auditors had reviewed whether Tanner’s signature had been forged.

Brown said they had not considered that.

Interviews were also part of the audit. Tanner’s defense Attorney Elizabeth Rogers asked Brown if the individuals questioned were told that it was voluntary and that they could leave at any time. These interviews were conducted in a conference room of the EPISD headquarters.

“We did not advise anyone of their right not to talk to us,” Rogers said. “They were there voluntarily and could leave at any time during the interviews.”

During Cross examination, Perez questioned Brown on whether his analysis of the numbers at Austin High school were based on fact or guessing. He further asked if Brown knew that the numbers had improved while Anderson was at Austin High School.

Brown had answered that he did not but had attributed the improvements to a Craig Kirwall, who had intervened at Bowie High School.

“Did you know Anderson hired him?” Perez asked.

“No, I did not,” Brown said.

Further testimony came from a parent of Austin High School, Laura Alvardo, who said that her child Aaron Lopez had done well his freshman year, but felt he was not wanted at Austin High School during his sophomore year.

“The teachers said it was because he wasn’t going to class or doing his homework,” Alvarado said. “But I saw him do it in the kitchen every day.”

She said she met with Diane Thomas, who had told her it was best that her son drop out. Thomas had been an assistant principal at that time.Time and time again, Alvarado said she reached out to Tanner, who at the time was a principal at Austin, but he dodged her or was always busy. Finally, during a football game she caught him and asked what could be done about her son.

“He said, he was an accountable student and encouraged that he drop out.” Now, 27, Alvardo said her son was able to graduate from Sunset High School with his GED and completed his medical assistant certification.

However, that was not the case with all students that were affected by this scheme.

The trial continues today and is expected to last several weeks.

Previous Coverage  HERE

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