State Sanctions El Paso High, Coronado Administrators

(Photo: Courtesy EPISD)

The Texas Education Agency reprimanded El Paso High Principal Kristine Ferret and placed the educator’s licenses of two assistant principals at EPHS and Coronado on probation over their alleged participation in the district’s past cheating scheme.

The state also sanctioned former El Paso High Principal Luis Liano, who is now the principal of a local charter school, and former Austin High Assistant Principal Jesus Herrera, who now works in Las Cruces.

The TEA alleges the educators improperly granted students credit during the scheme.

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All five denied wrongdoing, saying they agreed to the sanctions to avoid the “costs and uncertainty of litigation.”

The agreements, all signed in early May, bring to 21 the number of current and former El Paso Independent School District administrators whom the state has sanctioned for the 2006-13 cheating scheme.

The scheme denied students a proper education as administrators pushed children out of school, placed them in the wrong grades, improperly granted and denied them credits and put them in fast-track credit recovery courses to falsely inflate the district’s test scores, attendance and graduation rates.

EPISD spokesman Gustavo Reveles said the sanctions against the three current employees — Ferret, El Paso High Assistant Principal Adrian Bustillos and Coronado High Assistant Principal Grace García Runkles — don’t affect their employment with the district.

The state accused Ferret of allowing students who didn’t show mastery of the curriculum to receive credit while she was principal of El Paso High in spring 2012.

The reprimand will appear on Ferret’s certificate, but she still will be able to work as an educator in Texas.

Ferret was named principal of El Paso High in late 2011, replacing Liano, who was removed from the post in July of that year. The former EPISD school board shifted Liano into a central office position, then he resigned in 2013.

The state alleged Liano also improperly awarded credit to students when they hadn’t demonstrated mastery or had too many absences while he was principal of El Paso High. He agreed to a one-year probated suspension, meaning he will retain his educator license as long as he meets the conditions of his probation. If he violates the agreement, his certification could be suspended.

Liano is now principal of Paso Del Norte Academy-Mesa Charter High School in Downtown El Paso.

Representatives from Paso Del Norte could not be reached for comment on whether the reprimand would affect Liano’s employment.

State law doesn’t require teachers in charter schools to have educator certifications.

The Texas Education Agency also agreed to sanctions for Bustillos and García Runkles, giving them both one-year probated suspensions.

Grace García Runkles (Photo: Courtesy EPISD)

The Texas Education Agency alleged Bustillos, while assistant principal at El Paso High, allowed students to receive credit without showing they grasped the curriculum from 2009 to 2011.

The state alleges García Runkles, while an assistant principal at Irvin High in 2011 and at El Paso High in 2012, allowed students to earn credit without demonstrating mastery and despite having too many absences.

Herrera, formerly an assistant principal at Austin High, agreed to an inscribed reprimand on his certification after the state alleged he allowed students to earn credit without showing they mastered the content.

He is now a Title I coordinator for Las Cruces Public Schools.

LCPS spokeswoman Jo Galván said the sanction won’t affect Herrera’s employment with the district. Herrera told LCPS about the investigation, has a New Mexico teaching license and “remains in good standing” with the district, Galván said.

Under the agreements, García Runkles, Bustillos and Liano consented to testify as witnesses at future hearings if necessary.

Five former EPISD administrators facing criminal charges for their alleged involvement in the cheating scheme are scheduled to go to trial in federal court June 12.

Lindsey Anderson may be reached at 546-6345;; @l_m_anderson on Twitter.

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