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Former EPISD administrator linked to cheating scheme expected to plead guilty

A former El Paso ISD administrator charged with Conspiracy to Defraud the United States is expected to plead guilty, the defendant’s attorney told ABC-7 Wednesday.

Maria Flores, a former Associate Superintendent of the Elementary Division, retired January 25, 2013.

According to a federal information document obtained by ABC-7, Flores was directed to “make sure the campuses get out of the (adequate yearly progress) jail” during the 2009-10 school year.

The goal of the alleged scheme was to “create the appearance that an EPISD campus had legitimately met graduation rate as required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.”

During the 2008-09 school year, Flores allegedly authorized “mini-mesters” that allowed students at Bowie High School to obtain course credits. The court document states the mini-mesters “bi-passed the academic requirements of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills requirements necessary for the student to receive credit.”

During the 2009-10 school year, an administrator at EPISD allegedly asked Flores to administer categories of the TAKS test “to students based on which test the student was most likely to pass.” This allegedly included administering the “TAKS M” test for students with special needs to students not entitled to take that test, documents state.

Flores’ attorney, Dolph Quijano, told ABC-7 his client will plead guilty at her next court hearing. ABC-7 has learned that will be June 16th a 10:30 a.m. in Judge Briones’ courtroom.

The information document also details the allegations against Vanessa Foreman, a former EPISD administrator. Foreman was allegedly part of the scheme to keep students with “limited English proficiency” out of the 10th grade at Jefferson High School. The scheme orchestrated by then Superintendent, Dr. Lorenzo Garcia, was meant to keep at-risk student out of the 10th grade so they could avoid state-mandated tests.

Foreman is also accused of administering mini-mesters at Jefferson High School so students could obtain course credit even if they did not meet state requirements. ABC-7 was not able to reach Foreman’s attorney Wednesday.

The trial date of August 15, 2016 has been set for six former and current EPISD administrators accused of taking part in the cheating scheme.

The group allegedly orchestrated a scheme to remove students from particular classes and falsify records to show they attended and passed.

Former EPISD Associate Superintendent Damon Murphy, former Austin High School Principal John Tanner, former Austin High Assistant Principal Mark Tegmeyer and former EPISD Superintendent for Secondary Schools, James Anderson, are all charged with one count each of conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, with possible sentences of up to 20 years.

Anderson is also charged with making false statements to a federal investigator.
Tanner, Tegmeyer and former Austin High Assistant Principals Diane Thomas and Nancy Love are charged with conspiracy to retaliate against a witness, with a possible sentence of up to 10 years.

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