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Former assistant principal: ‘Bowie on its last leg, very disorganized’ in 2008

Former Bowie High School Assistant Principal Juan Manuel Duran testified Thursday during the Texas Education Agency hearing for three former El Paso ISD administrators who could lose their teaching certificates.

Duran testified that during the 2008-09 school year, his first year at the school, Bowie was quote “on it’s last leg with adequate yearly progress.” He added the school was “very disorganized.”

That year, Duran was given the responsibility to be in charge of attendance. Duran testified the overall attendance for students at Bowie was 89 percent, far below the average high school attendance rate, between 94 and 97 percent.

Duran explained how a low attendance rate affects a school’s federal funding and said administrators were concerned with the school’s low attendance rate.

Bowie’s at-risk coordinators met with hundreds of students on the verge of dropping out due to absences. It students had more than 10 absences, they could be dropped, Duran said.

During the hearing, the Texas Education Agency referred to an email Duran sent out to his staff to identify the problem with the hope of fixing it. The TEA said that is when steps were taken by coordinators to either drop students or restore credits to students.

Duran played a role in the scheme, according to court documents.

The TEA argued Duran acted inappropriately when he allegedly restored credits to students with too many absences. The state agency revealed 44 instances to the court when Duran allegedly signed off on student’s documents to restore their credits. It further argued there was no documentation to prove what students did to earn the credit after missing too many days of school.

Duran said at the time it seemed legitimate and it wasn’t until he received training that he realized what he was doing was wrong. He said never meant to deceive or hurt anyone and was simply trying to fix the problem.

Bowie High School’s ex-assistant principal Johnnie Vega was called to the stand Friday afternoon. Vega testified that he was “just as much a part of the cheating scandal as everyone else” and that is why he said he relinquished his teaching certification back in 2010.

Vega testified that during his time as assistant principal at Bowie, his main priorities were discipline and attendance. He explained to the courtroom the 90 percent attendance rule: which requires students to be in school 90 percent of the time to get credit for the courses they were taking.

The ex-assistant principal said that during his time at Bowie from 2006 to 2011 at least 40 percent of the student population violated the 90 percent rule. Since that number was so high, Vega was given a directive by his supervisor to grant credit restoration to any student with five or more absences.

Vega said he listened to the directive, but it frustrated and upset him. He testified that students knew they could get away with missing class and still get credit.

Vega testified that he signed close to 200 student documents to restore credits throughout the 2009 through 2010 school year, without regard to whether they met the criteria of making up the course work.

Duran, former Bowie Principal Jesus Chavez, and former Bowie Assistant Principal Anna Louisa Kell are facing the loss of their professional educator licenses and certifications. They are not currently facing criminal charges.

The hearing is scheduled to resume Monday morning at 9.

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