Plea deals offered to former EPISD administrators

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Five former administrators of the El Paso Independent School District could do less time for their roles in a district-wide cheating scheme that was uncovered in 2012.

Federal prosecutors laid out plea offers to the defendants in court late last week and early this week in hopes of securing convictions without going to trial.

Former Assistant Superintendent James Anderson would face a reduced sentence of up to 33 months if he pleads guilty to one of the charges against him, conspiracy to defraud the United States. The former principal of Austin High School, John Tanner, would get a reduced sentence of up to 34 months for pleading guilty to the same charge. Three former assistant principals at Austin High would serve lesser sentences for their roles in the scheme, including retaliating against other district employees who cooperated with the authorities.

If the officials don’t take their plea deals, they will face a jury on June 12.

The biggest conviction so far in this scandal went right to the top: former Superintendent Lorenzo Garcia. Garcia admitted in 2012 that he ordered administrators to rig accountability figures to secure federal funding under the No Child Left Behind law. Some of their alleged tactics included pushing some poorly-performing students out of school and placing others in the wrong grade so that they wouldn’t take the state-mandated TAKS tests.

Garcia also admitted to awarding a $450,000 no-bid contract to one of his mistresses.

Garcia’s successor, Superintendent Juan Cabrera, made a previous statement in an attempt to manage the damage to the district’s reputation:

“I want to reassure parents that the EPISD of today is a district where ethics and strong moral character are the driving force toward student success. We will not stand for anything else than that, and anyone who is unwilling to follow these standards does not belong anywhere near our children.”

Photo: Former EPISD Associate Superintendent and former Superintendent at the Canutillo ISD Damon Murphy is led to the El Paso County Jail after surrendering to the FBI in connection with the EPISD cheating scandal, in El Paso, Texas, Wednesday, April 27, 2016. (Ruben R. Ramirez/The El Paso Times via AP

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