POSTED: Saturday, January 19, 2013 - 12:29am
UPDATED: Monday, January 21, 2013 - 10:56pm
The elaborate cheating scheme at El Paso Independent School District crippled a large part of the city's education system and tarnished its reputation.
But this weekend, the Social Justice in Public Education Forum is trying to change that by pulling the community together to find ways EPISD can move forward from its past.
"We felt that it was important to start the healing process here in El Paso and in EPISD. A lot has happened in the last two years and we felt that it was time to bring educators, and parents and the community together to start talking about what are the next steps," says Norma De La Rosa, President of the El Paso Teacher's Association.
De La Rosa is referring to a cheating scandal two years ago, when former Superintendent Lorenzo Garcia and several other district employees put students in the wrong grades, pushed them out of school, or denied them from enrolling all together to inflate test scores and get bonuses.
"The stories we've heard around the issues here at El Paso ISD are alarming to us. And I know as parents and community together, we can address those issues and make a better way for our kids," says Rita Hacker, President of the Texas State Teacher's Association.
"I got on an airplane from Washington D.C. to be here today for one reason because the teacher's who teach in this school district said enough is enough," says Lily Eskelsen, Vice President of the National Education Association.
What were once the elephants in the room became this evening's most popular topics of discussion -- budget cuts, education for foreign students, and of course, standardized testing.
"It is time to stop judging a whole, entire, happy, blessed child by one standardized test that was never designed to be giving people bonuses or throwing children out of school," says Eskelsen.
"I think a lot of people who were ensnared in this cheating scandal were powerless. And I hope that what comes from this is a sense of empowerment, that we can do better," says State Representative Joe Moody.
"What happened to the students who were told they weren't welcome here is unforgiveable. I don't see how you forgive destroying someone's future," Eskelsen says.
It was a full house in the cafeteria at Bowie High. Some took notes and jotted down questions, while others listened keenly.
The public forum will continue tomorrow from 8AM until noon in the cafeteria at Bowie High School.