EL PASO — The greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce hosted a forum on Wednesday in downtown El Paso. The topic was education reform which is a big issue in our city.
The forum is part of a cross-country tour to discuss education reform in local communities and with El Paso Independent School District corruption scandal, people were looking for suggestions on ways to get the district back on track.
The forum was to highlight the important role the business community must play and to encourage local leaders to become catalysts for change.
Dr. Julian Trevino was a member of the panel. He was on the San Antonio ISD board for 12 years. He said the first thing EPISD needs to do is find the students impacted by the corruption.
"The first thing that needs to happen is to identify those students that are out of school.. to come up with a plan as to what are we gonna do to get them back.. who's gonna do that," said Trevino.
He said community members then need to get together to determine what they want for the students and become involved.
Only two percent of eligible voters typically head to the polls for school board elections.
"That's why you got to rally the troops, so to speak, to get out and vote," said Trevino.
Former Superintendent Lorenzo Garcia pleaded guilty to stealing thousands of dollars from taxpayers and also admitted to changing test scores in order to get more government money for the district.
El Paso Mayor John Cook was in attendance. He said lessons he's learned in city government hold true for school districts.
"The most important statement that any of the panel made was that you have to hold folks accountable," said Cook.
Standardized testing was also a topic discussed at the forum. A former EPISD teacher voiced his concerns.
"Kids are individuals and so you can't control what happens the night before the test or the day of, so why penalize the teacher,” said Ted Wehmeyer.
"Education sometimes, we're one size fits all and that's not right," said Trevino.
Wehmeyer said he thought the panelists had good ideas and now it's time to take it to EPISD.
"I think it's very relevant. I think we need to work at helping board members understand what their jobs are. What their responsibility is and I'm big on transparency. The community needs to know what the board is doing," said Wehmeyer.
EPISD Board President Isela Castanon-Williams was at the forum but left early because she wasn't feeling well.
She sent us a statement that said, "Today's panelists provided valuable perspectives on best practices to encourage community participation to help move our district forward. EPISD is confronting a long and difficult road to recover from Lorenzo Garcia's actions, and the solution requires active involvement from many community partners to reform our district in a way that restores the public's confidence."