EL PASO, Texas
A federal judge sentenced the former superintendent of El Paso Independent School District to more than three years in prison Friday for his participation in a conspiracy to improve the district’s high-stakes tests scores by removing low-performing students from classrooms.
Lorenzo Garcia’s scheme to prevent hundreds of sophomores from taking the accountability tests fooled authorities into believing that academic standards had improved in his West Texas district — resulting in a boost in federal funds and personal bonuses totaling at least $56,000.
Garcia pleaded guilty to two fraud counts in June; one in the testing scandal and another in which he misled the school board so that his lover would receive a $450,000 no-bid contract to produce school materials.
On Friday, federal Judge David Briones sentenced him to 31/2 years in prison on each fraud count, to be served at the same time. Garcia also was ordered to pay $180,000 in restitution and fined $56,500 — the amount he received as a bonus from the district for its success on test scores.
“As superintendent, I am responsible for everything that went on in my district,” Garcia said before the sentence was read to him by Judge Briones.
Court documents indicate at least six other people helped Garcia organize the testing scheme.
Mark Morgan, the FBI director for El Paso, said outside the court building that the investigation continues, but he would not comment on whether more arrests are coming.
The 31/2-year sentence had been agreed upon in a plea deal between Garcia and the government. Robert Pitman, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, described it as “fair” and “a significant deterrent.”
“Garcia abused the trust of the citizens of El Paso. He shamefully turned his time and attention to fraudulently obtaining performance based bonuses for himself. Today, he was held accountable for this breach of trust,” Pitman said in a statement.