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Prison, Fines for Former El Paso Superintendent Convicted of Fraud

Guest blog post by Jaclyn Zubrzycki @jzubrzycki

Lorenzo Garcia, the former superintendent of El Paso's schools who pleaded guilty this summer to two counts of fraud, will spend more than three years in prison and pay more than $200,000. Garcia was sentenced Friday, the El Paso Times reported.

Garcia implemented a cheating scheme, described here by the El Paso Times, that involved pushing students out of school, enrolling them in the wrong grade, and more. He also admitted to a fraud involving the assignment of a $450,000 contract to a former mistress.

Garcia was sentenced to a 42-month term in prison for each of the two crimes, both of which he'll serve simultaneously. The former superintendent has also been fined $56,600, the amount of the personal bonus he received when the district appeared to be performing better due to the manipulations, and will pay $180,000 as a restitution for the contract fraud.

The Associated Press ran a story about a family affected by some of the most blatant of the superintendent's cheating practices: Three brothers were each counseled by school administrators to drop out of school around the time they reached 10th grade, the year in which El Paso students take high-stakes tests.

The district has employed three interim superintendents since Garcia's departure last November. Vernon Butler, who was previously superintendent of Anthony Independent School District in Texas, stepped into the role late last month. The board continues to search for a permanent superintendent.

The superintendent's plan has been called the educational equivalent of the business practice of "shedding risky assets." Anthony Cody, who blogs over on our Teacher site, wrote about this connection after the superintendent's guilty plea this summer.

Cheating has been an issue in Philadelphia and Georgia, though the strategies used to falsify scores and the additional fraud convictions make Garcia's case particularly sensational.

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