SOAH DOCKET NO. 701-09-3906.

EC TEXAS EDUCATION AGENCY, EDUCATION CERTIFICATION AND STANDARDS DIVISION, Petitioner

V.
SONIA SANCHEZ, Respondent

§ § § § § § § § §

BEFORE THE STATE OFFICE

OF

ADMINISTRA TIVE HEARINGS

PROPOSAL FOR DECISION

The staff of the Texas Education Agency, Education Certification and Standards Division (Staff/Board) brought this action to revoke the license of Sonia Sanchez, Respondent, based on the allegations that Respondent refused to register students, violated Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test administration procedures, falsified records, and used coercive means or promises of special treatment to influence professional decisions or colleagues. This Proposal recommends that Respondent's license be suspended for a period of five years.

I. JURISDICTION, NOTICE, AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

There are no contested issues of notice or venue in this proceeding. These matters are addressed in the findings of fact and conclusions of law without further discussion.

Respondent contested Petitioner's jurisdictional authority to enforce Laredo Independent School District (LISD) policies, and sought dismissal of any allegation based on violations of the LISD policies. Based on the discussion below, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) has determined that the issue is not that the Board is seeking to enforce LISD policies, but that the Board rules provide that violations oflocal school district policies can be considered violations of Board rules. Inasmuch as the LISD policies track statutory language and Board rules, violations of such statutes and rules necessarily would also be violation ofLISD policies. Board has jurisdiction to regulate

I'" .""",
SOAH DOCKET NO. 701-09-3906.EC PROPOSAL FOR DECISION PAGE 2

teachers and administrators and to sanction them for violations ofBoard rules, andjurisdiction in this case is proper.

The hearing convened March 29 and 30, 2010, before ALJ Roy G. Scudday in the William P. Clements Building, 300 West 15th Street, Fourth Floor, Austin, Texas. Staff was represented by Sonali K. Gokhale, Assistant Counsel and Richard J. Ybarra, Assistant Counsel. Respondent was represented by attorney Russell Ramirez. The record closed on May 7,2010.

II. REASONS FOR DECISION

A.

Background

Respondent holds a valid Texas Educator Certificate. At the time of the allegations, AprilMay, 2008, she was the principal of Cigarroa High School (CHS) in the LISD.

B.

Staff's Allegations

Staffs allegations, combined and restated in a logical manner, are as follows: 1. Respondent refused and failed to enroll five students in contradiction to the Texas Education Code (Code) and the LISD policies in violation of 19 TEX. ADMIN. CODE (TAC) § 247.2(b)(1)(G) and (b)(3)(B) (Code of Ethics), specifically Standards 1.7 and 3.2; and Code §§ 25.001,25.002, and 25.085. Respondent failed to administer the T AKS test to five students and directed others to not test those students in violation of Code § 39.023 and 19 T AC § 101.5. Respondent failed to follow proper T AKS test administration procedures and viewed secure test booklets, thereby violating the confidentiality and security of the test administration, in violation of 19 TAC §§ 101.27 and 101.63. Respondent falsified records or directed or coerced others to do so in violation of § 247 .2(b)(1 )(F), Standard 1.6, knowingly engaged in deceptive practices regarding official policies of the school district, in violation of 19 T AC § 247 .2(b)(1 )(A),

2.

3.

4.

·

,

"'-' SOAH DOCKET NO. 701-09-3906.EC

PROPOSAL FOR DECISION

-

PAGE 3

Standard 1.1; and deliberately or knowingly misrepresented facts regarding students in violation of 19 TAC § 247.2(b)(3)(C), Standard 3.3. 5. Respondent used coercive means or promise of special treatment in order to influence professional decisions or colleagues in violation of 19 TAC § 24 7(b )(2)(F), specifically Standard 2.6. Respondent's actions as described in the above-stated allegations were in violation of various LISD policies. Respondent is subject to sanctions pursuant to19 TAC § 249.l5(b)(2) because Respondent is a person who is unworthy to instruct or supervise the youth of the state.

6.

7.

C.

Evidence

Staff submitted 22 exhibits and provided the testimony often witnesses: Duvina Rodriguez, Registrar; Patricia Keck, Director of Health Services; Gloria Martinez, Assistant Principal; Edna Garza, Employer Relations Coordinator; Sonia Pena, Head Attendance Clerk; and

students; Sylvia Valdez, Special Education Teacher's Aide; Raphael Salinas, Teacher; and Eduardo Martinez, Assistant PrincipaL

Respondent submitted nine exhibits (including depositions of teachers Sarah Ortiz and Minerva Sanchez) and provided the testimony of two witnesses: Anita Hernandez, PBX Operator and Receptionist; and Respondent.

1.

Undisputed Facts

Respondent was the principal ofCHS during the 2007-2008 school year. During April 2008, six students tried to register and enroll at CHS. The students were , and were former students at CHS. , , and

C
SOAH DOCKET NO. 701-09-3906.EC

·

.

""""".
PROPOSAL FOR DECISION

PAGE 4

United South High School (USHS), LBJ High School (LBJHS), and United Step Academy (USA) are schools in the United Independent School District (UISD). CHS and Lara Academy (LA) are schools in the LlSD. UISD and LlSD are the two school districts in Laredo, Texas.

enrolled at On and reenrolled in .

in UISD on he enrolled at On in UISD. On

and withdrew on he withdrew from but reenrolled on on
1

he withdrew from

, he withdrew from

He was enrolled at

enrolled at

on
2

and withdrew on in UISD. On she withdrew from

. On .

, she enrolled at She was reenrolled at on

enrolled at , she enrolled at on
3

on in LlSD. On

, and withdrew on , she withdrew from

. On She was reenrolled at

enrolled at she enrolled at at on enrolled at .4

on in UISD. On

, and withdrew on she withdrew from

On . She was reenrolled

on in LlSD. On .5

, and withdrew on , she withdrew from

.

On

, she enrolled at reenrolled at on

. She was

I

Pet. Ex. I, p. 35. Pet. Ex. I, p. 61. Pet. Ex. 1, pp. 27, 29. Pet.Ex.l,p.54. Pet. Ex. I, p. 68.

2
3
4

5

SOAH DOCKET NO. 701-09-3906.EC

PROPOSAL FOR DECISION

PAGE 5

enrolled at , she enrolled at reenrolled at on

on in UlSD. On .
6

, and withdrew on she withdrew from

On . She was

The TAKS tests were administered at CHS from April 28 through May 2, 2008. enrolled at CHS before the TAKS testing began. CHS until after the TAKS testing had finished. , and

was

were not reenrolled at

2.

Allegation One

The first allegation is that Respondent refused and failed to enroll the five students even though they had the required documents for enrollment.

Code § 25.085 requires children between the ages of 6 and 18 to attend school each school day of the year. Code § 25.00 I sets forth the requirements for the admission of a student into a school, which includes proving that the student or the student's parent or guardian lives in the district. The designee of the school board is required to establish minimum proof of residency to verify eligibility for admission. Code § 25.002 provides that, in order for a student to be enrolled, the student's parent or guardian must provide the following documentation:

(1) the student's birth certificate or another document suitable as proof of the student's identity; (2) a copy ofthe student's records from the school the student most recently attended if the student has been previously enrolled in a school in this state or another state; and (3) a record showing that the student has the required immunizations. Duvina Rodriguez has been the registrar at CHS for 26 years. She explained the registration process as follows: lfthe student is coming from another district, the student is required to provide proof of residency, a withdrawal and transcript from the previous school, and their immunization records. The student must then get a permit to enroll from the principal, and get clearance from the
Pet. Ex. l,pp. 16, 18.

6

I'" '-'
SOAR DOCKET NO. 701-09-3906.EC

.-..,.;

PROPOSAL FOR DECISION

PAGE 6

nurses. Once all that is done, the student sees the counselors, and gets a schedule. The schedule is then entered into the computer at which point the student is officially enrolled. For students who come from another school within the district, no proof of residency or transcript is required. 7

The student records show that the following information was provided for each student at issue here:

-birth certificate, withdrawal, address, immunization record, and transcript from .8 -birth certificate, withdrawal, address, immunization record, and transcript from .9 -birth certificate, withdrawal, address, immunization record, and transcript from -birth certificate, address, immunization record, and transcript from II 12 IO

-birth certificate, withdrawal, address, immunization record, and transcript from -birth certificate, withdrawal, address, immunization record, and transcript from 13

Ms. Rodriguez testified that

was registered on

, because he had all the and even though

required documentation. However, she did not officially enroll

they, too, had all the required documents because Respondent told her to "enroll them on paper only," i.e., to go though all the enrollment procedures but to not input the information into the

7 8 9
10

Transcript, p. 16, l. 5 to p. 17, l. 8. Pet. Ex. l,pp. 35-49; Ex. 6,pp. 15-17. Pet. Ex. 1, pp. 61-67; Ex. 6, pp. 63-65. Pet. Ex. 1, pp. 25-33; Ex. 6, pp. 38-40. Pet. Ex. 1, pp. 53-60; Ex. 6, pp. 50-54. Pet. Ex. 1, pp. 68-80; Ex. 6, pp. 3-5. Pet. Ex. 1, pp. 16-23; Ex. 6, pp. 27-29.

II

12
13

SOAH DOCKET NO. ?Ol-09-3906.EC

PROPOSAL FOR DECISION

PAGE?

computer. 14 Ms. Rodriguez stated that she officially enrolled the students in the computer on , the date Respondent told her to do
SO.15

Ms. Rodriguez testified that she did not know if

provided Respondent with proof of

residency, but assumed that she had because she came back with the permit to enroll. She also testified that had the same address as she had when she was previously enrolled at CHS. 16 She but stated that she could still be enrolled under until May 5. 18 Ms. Rodriguez testified to show that talked to

agreed that there is no withdrawal document for LISD policies. 17 She testified that from and

had all their documents because they were transfers

but she was told by Respondent not to enroll

that there is no proof ofresidency or permit to enroll in the records for

Respondent, but the proof of residency would not have been needed because she showed the same address she had when she had been previously enrolled at CHS. 19 She also testified that although there was no proof of residency for previously enrolled at CHS. 2o in the records, she also had the same address as when she

Ms. Rodriguez further testified that there were paper schedules for in the requirements for enrollment. 21

and

, all issued

, and that the students would not have been issued the schedules unless they had met all

Patricia Keck is the Director of Health Services for LISD and has worked for the District since 2000. She explained the LISD policies regarding health records and immunization records. She testified that students can be provisionally enrolled and provide their immunization records

14

Transcript, p. 18, I. 5 to p. 19, I. 23. Transcript, p. 28,

15

n.

1-9.

16

Transcript, p. 43, I. 7 to p. 44, I. 16; p. 105, I. 19 to p. 106, I. 8.

17 Transcript, p. 44, II. 12-18; Pet. Ex. 2, p. 26: Parents must furnish birth certificate and copy of records from previous school within 30 days of enrollment, pursuant to statute and LISD policy.

18 19
20
21

Transcript, p. 53, I. 14 to p. 54, 1. 12; p. 59, I. 20- p. 61, 1. 23. Transcript, p. 63, 1. 20 to p. 64,1. 11; p. 86, L 14 to p. 87, 1. 5. Transcript, p. 66, I. 7 to p. 67, I. 1; p. 106,11.9-19. Transcript, p. 83, I. 11 to p. 84, L 3; Pet. Exs. 13, 14, and 15.

f"'"
SOAH DOCKET NO. 701-09-3906.EC

PROPOSAL FOR DECISION

""'"
-..""II

PAGE 8

within 30 days of the enrollment. 22 Ms. Keck testified that LISD has an electronic database that maintains immunization records for students that have been enrolled in LISD at any point in time, and that this history is available to the school nurse when a former student attempts to enroll. 23 After reviewing the records of the five students, , , and she determined that all ofthem met the immunization records requirement for enrollment. 24

Ms. Keck testified that in reviewing the health records of been treated in the CHS clinic on Likewise she noted that enrollment date on

, she noted that the student had

before her official enrollment date of , before her official

had been treated in the CHS clinic on

According to Ms. Keck, students have to have been cleared for

registration by the school nurse before they are allowed to visit the clinic. 26

testified that her mother took her to CHS in

to register her and was told she needed

to meet with Respondent. She testified that Respondent refused to enroll her because the T AKS test was coming up. and her mother returned the next Monday and Respondent said could come to school but would not be registered until after she had taken a practice test. 27

stated that because

she was not registered, she was unable to eat lunch in the school cafeteria and had to walk home for lunch. She further testified that she went to class for two to three weeks after getting a paper schedule, went to the nurse's office during that period, and then was school year. 28 for the rest of the

testified that her mother took her to CHS in to prove her residence. Attendance records indicate that
22

to register her, she talked to attended classes in

Respondent, and received a paper schedule from the registrar the next day after she provided a

Transcript, p. 112, L 11 to p. 113, 1.-17; Pet. Ex. 2, pp. 50-52. Transcript, p. 115,1. 16 to p. 118; I. 11. Transcript, p. 124,11. 11-21. Transcript, p. 126,1. 3-p. 127, L 18; Pet. Ex. 6, pp. 78-79. Transcript, p. 140, II. 1-17. Transcript, p. 225, L 25 to p. 227, L 22. Transcript, p. 228, II. 1-11; p. 233, 11. 1-19.

23
24

25 26 27 28

SOAH DOCKET NO. 701-09-3906.EC

-

PROPOSAL FOR DECISION

-

PAGE 9

although she was not officially registered until

. 29

testified that she went to class for she had rather than a

the rest ofthe school year. 30 She further stated that because she was not registered in to repeat some classes the next year and was classified as a
3l

Edna Garza is the Employee Relations Coordinator for LISD, and has been an employee of the District for seven years. She testified that around 10:00 on the morning of May 15, 2008, she attended a meeting with Ernesto Guajardo, Executive Director of Human Resources for LISD and Respondent. She stated that in that meeting, when asked by Mr. Guajardo why Respondent had not registered the five students in when they were given paper schedules, Respondent stated that

she did not register them because they were not prepared to take the T AKS test. 32 Ms. Garza testified that a second meeting was held on May 30, 2008, at which time Respondent stated that she would retire rather than accept a reassignment. 33

Respondent had been a science teacher for 13 years and an administrator for 13 years, all at LISD, when she was appointed principal of CHS for the 2007-2008 school year. She testified that when the five students carne to see her they were missing some ofthe required documentation so she thought they were new students. As a result, she told them she was going to give them benchmark tests to find out ifthere were any subjects on the T AKS test in which the students needed extra work. She testified that she gave the students the tests and specifically had the science tests graded to determine which classes they should be assigned to. 34

Respondent testified that after she gave the students the benchmark tests, she told Ms. Rodriguez to give them a paper schedule to last until they provided the required documents. When the T AKS period was approaching, Respondent stated that she asked the attendance office and
29

Pet Ex. 22. Transcript, p. 236, I. 8 to p. 237, I. 23. Transcript, p. 239, II. 3-22. Transcript, p. 187,1. 15 to p. 188, I. 10; Pet. Ex. 45. Transcript, p. 204,1. 15 to p. 205, l. 15. Transcript, p. 349, I. 2 to p. 351, I. 1.

30
31

32

33 34

C
SOAH DOCKET NO. 701-09-3906.EC

PROPOSAL FOR DECISION

"""'"

PAGE 10

Anita Hernandez, the receptionist, to find the students so that she could get their paperwork and have them registered. 35 Ms. Hernandez confirmed that Respondent told her to locate the students. 36 Respondent testified that she gave the list of students she was looking for to Ms. Martinez, telling her that they needed to be registered so that they could take the TAKS test. 37

Respondent testified that she did not meet with Mr. Guajardo and Ms. Garza on the morning of May 15 because she was attending the student awards ceremony at that time. She stated that she did meet with them on May 29 or 30, 2008, at which time they discussed the T AKS test. Respondent denied saying that she had purposefully refused to register the five students so that they couldn't take the TAKS test, merely that she wanted the seniors, including the five students, "to do good on the test.,,38

3.

Allegation Two

The second allegation is that Respondent failed to administer the T AKS test to five students and directed others to not test those students.

Gloria Martinez was an Assistant Principal at CHS during the 2007-2008 school year. One of her duties was to serve as testing coordinator for the TAKS test. She explained that all registered and enrolled students are required to be given the TAKS test. She testified that before the TAKS testing period began in April 2008, Respondent handed her a list ofstudents and told her that five of the students on the list, , , and were not to be tested because they were not registered. As a result, those students' names were deleted from the test rosters. 39

35 36

Transcript, p. 351, 1. 23 to p. 353, I. 18. Transcript, p. 300, I. 17 to p. 301, I. 13. Transcript, p. 358, 1. 19 to p. 358, I. 17. Transcript, p. 365, I. 8 to p. 366, 1.5; Resp. Ex. 10. Transcript, p. 154,1.25 to p. 157, I. 13; Pet. Ex. 16.

37
38

39

SOAH DOCKET NO. 701-09-3906.EC

PROPOSAL FOR DECISION

-

PAGE 11

Ms. Garza testified that during the May 15 meeting, Respondent stated that she had not let the five students take the T AKS test because they were not prepared and she "could not let those students bring down the scores that she had worked so hard to bring up that school year. ,,40 Respondent denied stating that.

Respondent testified that she told Ms. Martinez that the five students needed to be registered so that they could take the TAKS test. She denied telling Ms. Martinez that the students were not to take the test. 41

Both

and

testified that they
42

the TAKS test. In addition,

stated that

when she was told she was not on the test roster, she went home and no one called or came looking for her during the testing period.

Sylvia Valdez was a special education teacher's aide during the 2007-2008 school year. She testified that on the morning ofthe first day ofthe TAKS testing, Respondent came into the office of Ms. Dabdub, the special education coordinator, while Ms. Valdez was there waiting for her assignment. Ms. Valdez testified that Respondent had two female students with her and told Ms. Valdez to stay with them. Respondent then brought another female student followed by a male student to Ms. Valdez. Ms. Valdez stated that Respondent then told the four students that they were to work on benchmark tests in a small room off Ms. Dabdub's office for the next four days. Each day Respondent would give out a test on math, chemistry, or other subjects, and the students would remain in that room for the entire day working on the tests. Ms. Valdez gave the tests to Respondent at the end of each day. Ms. Valdez testified that she could not remember the names of any of the students. 43

40
41
42

Transcript, p. 188, II. 3-12. Transcript, p. 358, I. 19 to p. 358, 1. 17. Transcript, p. 238, 1 1, to p. 239, 1. 2. Transcript, p. 224, 1 17, to p. 260, 1. 22.

43

SOAH DOCKET NO. 701-09-3906.EC

PROPOSAL FOR DECISION

""'"

PAGE 12

Respondent testified that she didn't remember Sylvia Valdez, but denied taking students to the room off Ms. Dabdub's office during the TAKS testing period and telling anyone to give the students benchmark tests during that period. 44

4.

Allegation Three

The third allegation is that Respondent failed to follow proper T AKS test administration procedures and viewed secure test booklets, thereby violating the confidentiality and security ofthe test administration.

The Manual for the administration of the T AKS test provides the follovving: No person may view or discuss the contents ofthe test booklets or answer documents before, during, or after a test administration unless specifically instructed to do so by the procedures outlined in the this test administration manual. No person may view, reveal, or discuss the contents of a secure assessment instrument or answer verbally or nonverbally any question that relates to the contents of a test before, during, or after a test administration unless specifically instructed to do so by the procedures outlined in the this test administration manual. Incidents resulting in a deviation from documented testing procedures are defined as testing irregularities. Each person participating in the testing program is directly responsible for reporting immediately to the district testing coordinator any violation or suspected violation of test security or confidentiality. Failure to report to the appropriate authority that an individual has engaged in conduct that violates the security or confidentiality ofa test violates 19 TAC § 101.65(d)(7) and could result in sanctions. 45 Gloria Martinez testified that on May 2, 2008, she observed Respondent flipping through a science test questions booklet after the booklets and answer sheets had been collected from the students. Ms. Martinez stated that she immediately reported her observations to the District Testing

44 45

Transcript, p. 359, 11. 18-25.
Pet. Ex. 5, pp. 6-7.

SOAH DOCKET NO. 701-09-3906.EC

PROPOSAL FOR DECISION

PAGE 13

Administrator. 46 Two teachers, Sarah Ortiz and Minerva Saenz, confirmed that Respondent had looked at one test booklet after the testing session had been completed. Respondent testified that she flipped through the science test booklet on the top of the stack of booklets that had been turned in to make sure that a student hadn't left anything in the booklet. 47

5.

Allegations Four and Five

The fourth allegation is that Respondent falsified records or directed or coerced others to do so, knowingly engaged in deceptive practices regarding official policies of the school district, and deliberately or knowingly misrepresented facts regarding students, which is necessarily based on the same facts as alleged in previous allegations. The fifth allegation is that Respondent used coercive means or promise of special treatment in order to influence professional decisions or colleagues.

Ms. Rodriguez testified that she met with Respondent after the end of the school year at which time Respondent asked Ms. Rodriguez if she would consider documenting that the five students had not been enrolled because the computers were not working. Ms. Rodriguez stated that she refused to do so because that was not what happened.
48

Respondent testified that she only asked Ms. Rodriguez ifthe computers had been working at the time in question and did not tell her to say that they had not been working.
49

Sonia Pena is the head attendance clerk at CHS, a position she has held for 26 years. She explained that once a student is registered on the computer, their name is shown on the attendance roster. Although her testimony was confusing, after being contacted by Respondent several times, she agreed to write a letter at the 'urging of Respondent in which she stated that on April 18, 2008,

46

Pet. Ex. 5, pp. 6-7. Transcript, p. 362, 1. 24 to p. 363, 1. 17. Transcript, p. 151,1. 25 to p. 154,1. 24. Transcript, p. 367, I. 7 to p. 368, l. 7.

47
48

49

SOAH DOCKET NO. 701-09-3906.EC

-

PROPOSAL FOR DECISION

PAGE 14

Respondent gave her a list of several students who were not registered and needed to be located. Ms. Pena testified that Respondent told her how to word the letter. 50

Respondent agreed that she called Ms. Pena six times trying to get her to write a statement. Respondent testified that she asked Ms. Pena if she remembered Respondent asking her to locate the students. Respondent stated that Ms. Pena asked her what to write and she told her. Ms. Pena then wrote what Respondent said down word for word. 51

6.

Allegations Six and Seven

The sixth allegation is that Respondent violated district policies. The seventh allegation is that Respondent is subject to sanctions because she is a person who is unworthy to instruct or supervise the youth ofthe state. These allegations are necessarily based on the same facts as alleged in previous allegations.

D.

Analysis and Recommendation

1.

Legal Standards

Pursuant to 19 TAC § 249.15, the Board may suspend or revoke the certificate ofa teacher if the person has conducted school or education activities in violation oflaw, is unworthy to instruct or supervise the youth of this state, has violated a provision of the Educator's Code of Ethics, or has committed an act described in 19 TAC § 249 .14(g), including testing violations.

2.

Specific Allegations

The first allegation is that Respondent refused and failed to enroll the five students even though they had the required documents for enrollment, in violationof19 TAC § 247.2(b)(l)(G) and
50
51

Transcript, p. 214, I. 1 to p. 222, I. 13. Transcript, p. 369, 1. 18 to p. 370,1. 19.

SOAH DOCKET NO. 701-09-3906.EC

PROPOSAL FOR DECISION

PAGE 15

(b)(3)(B) (Code of Ethics), specifically Standards 1.7 and 3.2. Those standards provide that the educator shall comply with state regulations, written local school board policies, and other applicable state and federal laws, and the educator shall not knowingly treat a student in a manner that adversely affects the student's learning, physical health, mental health, or safety.

Code § 25.085 requires children to attend school. Code § 25.001 sets forth the requirements for the admission ofa student into a school. Code § 25.002 sets forth the required documentation for enrollment in school, which must be furnished "not later than the 30th day after the date a child is enrolled in a public school." Staff argues that Respondent deliberately refused to register the five students even though they were qualified for registration, The evidence is clear that the five students attempted to enroll in , but were not officially enrolled until told by Respondent not to enroll them until and Ms. Rodriguez testified that she was

even though they had the required documentation in because they

Respondent testified that she did not permit the students' enrollment in

had not provided her all the required documentation, even though the law allowed them to be enrolled while the documentation was being supplied.

The evidence establishes that

,

and

all attended classes at CHS before they

were officially enrolled. Respondent could have argued that, because of the impending T AKS testing and other activities going on, she just lost track of the students. However, she did not make that argument but instead stated that she made sure that the students had paper schedules so they could attend school and asked Ms. Hernandez to find the students. This supports the allegation that Respondent intentionally allowed the students to attend class but refused to allow them to be officially enrolled until after the T AKS testing period.

Respondent argues that not allowing the students to be enrolled without the proper documentation complies with the Code. However, she does not explain why she could not have

,.....
"-'
SOAH DOCKET NO. 701-09-3906.EC

........
PROPOSAL FOR DECISION

""""

PAGE 16

enrolled the students pursuant to the 30-day documentation period set forth in Code § 25.002(a)(3) and LISD Policy FFAB, p. 4.52

The evidence suggests that the failure to register

may have affected her safety by requiring

her to walk home for lunch, but that suggestion was not established as fact. The evidence further establishes that, partially as a result of 's not being registered in she

The preponderance ofthe evidence establishes that Respondent violated Code § 25.001 and 25.002, and 19 TAC § 247.2(b)(I)(G) and (b)(3)(B), specifically Standards 1.7 and 3.2.

The second allegation is that Respondent failed to administer the TAKS test to five students and directed others to not test those students in violation of Code § 39.023 and 19 TAC § 101.5, which require the test assessment of all enrolled students.

The evidence established that the five students did not take the TAKS test even though they were attending school at the time the tests were given. Respondent argues she tried to get them enrolled so they could take the test, but was unable to do so. However, under Code § 25.002 they were able to be enrolled even without having all the required documentation, and, as a result, were required to be given the test. Whether Ms. Martinez was instructed not to give them the tests and whether they were instead given benchmark tests by Ms. Valdez is beside the point. The fact is they were not given the TAKS test, which is a violation of the law. The preponderance of the evidence establishes that Respondent violated Code § 39.023 and 19 TAC § 101.5.

The third allegation is that Respondent failed to follow proper T AKS test administration procedures and viewed secure test booklets, thereby violating the confidentiality and security ofthe test administration, in violation of 19 T AC §§ 101.27 and 101.63. Those rules refer to the integrity

52

Pet. Ex. 2, p. 52.

SOAH DOCKET NO. 701-09-3906.EC

-

PROPOSAL FOR DECISION

PAGE 17

and security of the testing procedure. As noted above, the Testing Manual sets forth the security requirements for the tests.

There is no question that Respondent flipped through one test booklet. However, there is insufficient evidence to establish that she viewed the contents of the booklet as asserted by Ms. Martinez, as opposed to seeing if anything had been left in the booklet, as asserted by Respondent. As a result, the preponderance of the evidence does not establish that Respondent violated 19 TAC §§ 101.27 and 101.63.

The fourth allegation is that Respondent falsified records or directed or coerced others to do so in violation of 19 TAC § 247 .2(b)(1 )(F), Standard 1.6; knowingly engaged in deceptive practices regarding official policies of the school district, in violation of 19 TAC § 247.2(b)(I)(A), Standard 1,1; and deliberately or knowingly misrepresented facts regarding students in violation of 19 TAC
§ 247.2(b)(3)(C), Standard 3.3.

Staff argues that the evidence shows that Respondent directed Ms. Rodriguez to falsify the student's registration documents by not promptly enrolling them and giving them paper schedules instead of an official schedule. As discussed above, Ms. Rodriguez testified that she was told by Respondent not to register the five students until to be enrolled in However, the students were entitled

, and allowed a 30-day period to secure any missing documents. The direction was a direction to Ms. Rodriguez to falsify the

by Respondent not to enroll them until

registration records. As a result, the preponderance of the evidence establishes that Respondent violated 19 TAC § 247.2(b)(I)(F), Standard 1.6, 19 TAC § 247.2(b)(I)(A), Standard 1.1; and 19 TAC § 247.2(b)(3)(C), Standard 3.3.

The fifth allegation is that Respondent used coercive means or promise ofspecial treatment in order to influence professional decisions or colleagues in violation of 19 TAC § 24 7(b)(2)(F), Standard 2.6.

I"""
SOAR DOCKET NO. 701-09-3906.EC

---

.....",

PROPOSAL FOR DECISION

PAGE 18

Staff argues that Respondent repeatedly called and harassed her colleagues to provide letters of support on her behalf. However, the evidence shows that Respondent had one meeting with Ms. Rodriguez at which time the computers were discussed. There is no evidence that Respondent attempted to coerce Ms. Rodriguez to make an untruthful statement. As for the attempts to contact Ms. Pena, Respondent did repeatedly call her to secure a statement she felt was necessary to explain her actions. However, the statement appears to have been accurate and Respondent's anxiety to sec.ure it is understandable.

The preponderance of the evidence does not establish that Respondent violated 19 TAC

§ 247.2(b)(1)(f), Standard 2.6.

The sixth allegation is the so-called "kitchen sink" allegation that Respondent violated numerous Code provisions, rules, LISD policies, and Ethics Code standards. In addition to the laws and rules already discussed, Staff's list of violations includes alleged violations of specific LISD policies: DH (LEGAL), DH (EXHIBIT), EKB (LEGAL), and FD (LEGAL).53 The Employee Standards of Conduct for LISD54 requires educators to comply with standard practices and ethical conduct toward students, including the code of ethics set forth in DH (EXHIBIT).55 That policy tracks the Code ofEthics in 19 TAC § 247.2. 56 Accordingly, because Respondent violated Standards 1.1, 1.6, 1.7,3.2, and 3.3 in 19 TAC § 247.2 as found in the previous analysis, she also violated the LISD policies DH (LEGAL) and DH (EXHIBIT).

The LISD policy EKB (LEGAL) requires every student to take the appropriate criterionreferenced TAKS tests. 57 Because Respondent failed to administer the TAKS test to the five

53
54

The policy titles are the designations used by LISD. DH (LEGAL).
Pet. Ex. 2, p. 57. Pet. Ex. 2, pp. 59-60. Pet. Ex. 2, p. 12.

55

56
57

SOAH DOCKET NO. 701-09-3906.EC

-

PROPOSAL FOR DECISIOJ"lr-""

PAGE 19

students and directed others to not test those students as found in the previous analysis, she also violated this policy.

The LISD policy FD (LEGAL) requires Board designees such as Respondent to enroll qualified students into the schools and sets forth the required documentation, tracking Code

§ 25.002.58

Respondent refused and failed to enroll the five students even though they had the

required documents for enrollment as found in the previous analysis, she also violated this policy.

The preponderance of the evidence establishes that Respondent violated LISD policies: DH (LEGAL), DH (EXHIBIT), EKB (LEGAL), and FD (LEGAL).

The seventh allegation is that Respondent is subject to sanctions to her certificate pursuant to 19 TAC 249.15(b )(2) because she is a person who is unworthy to instruct or supervise the youth of the state.

Staff argues that Respondent was a principal in a position of authority, and as such, had the responsibility to ensure that her students had access to education, were given the opportunity to attend and receive credit for classes, and were allowed to take the T AKS test. Staff asserts that Respondent's failure to meet that responsibility shows that she is not worthy to be an educator or a principal. Respondent counters that she did not violate any statutes or rules so there is nothing to support a finding that she is unworthy to instruct or supervise students. Based on the violations that have been established as discussed above, Respondent has been shown to be unworthy to instruct or supervise the youth of the state.

E.

Sanction

The rule at 19 T AC § 249.15(a) provides that the Board may take the following disciplinary actions

58

Pet. Ex. 2, pp. 22-27.

f""
SOAH DOCKET NO. PROPOSAL FOR PAGE 20

1) place restrictions on the issuance, renewal, or holding of a certificate, either indefinitely or for a set term; (2) issue an inscribed or non-inscribed reprimand; (3) suspend a certificate for a set term or issue a probated suspension for a set term; (4) revoke or cancel, which includes accepting the surrender of, a certificate without opportunity for reapplication for a set term or permanently; or (5) impose any additional conditions or restrictions upon a certificate that the SBEC deems necessary to facilitate the rehabilitation and professional development of the educator or to protect students, parents of students, school personnel, or school officials. In determining what the appropriate sanction in a given case should be, the following factors are required to be considered pursuant to 19 TAC § 249.17(c): (1) the seriousness of the violation; (2) whether the misconduct was premeditated or intentional; (3) attempted concealment of misconduct; (4) prior misconduct; (5) whether the sanction will deter future violations; and (6) any other relevant circumstances or facts.

Staff argues that revocation of Respondent' s certificate is the appropriate sanction due to the seriousness ofthe violations, the fact that the misconduct was intentional, and based on the assertion that Respondent attempted to conceal her misconduct.

Clearly, the violations are serious and the evidence has established that Respondent's conduct was intentional. On the other hand, the evidence does not establish that Respondent attempted to conceal her conduct, only to rationalize it. Such rationalization is understandable considering the considerable pressure placed on teachers and administrators by the perceived effects of the assessment testing process on their careers. In addition, as Respondent told Ms. Garza, Respondent was clearly looking out for the best interests of the school by trying to keep its T AKS scores from falling, although she went about it in the wrong way. There is no evidence that Respondent was guilty of any prior misconduct in the prior twenty-six years ofher professional career in education, or that revocation is necessary to deter future violations. As for Staff s arguments that Respondent's actions had a negative impact on students, the evidence shows that the failure to register may

SOAH DOCKET NO. 701-09-3906.EC

PROPOSAL FOR DECISION

PAGE 21

have had some effect on her having to

In addition, Respondent's actions necessarily

had a negative impact on the credibility and reputation ofLISD.

III. RECOMMENDATION

Based on the totality of the evidence in the record, the ALJ recommends that Respondent's certificate be suspended for a period of five years.

IV. FINDINGS OF FACT
1. Sonia Sanchez (Respondent) holds a Texas Educator Certificate, which was in full force and effect at all times material and relevant to this action, issued by the State Board for Educator Certification (Board). On May 1, 2009, staff of the Board (Staff) sent a notice of hearing and petition to Respondent proposing revocation of the certificate referred to in Finding of Fact No.1. The notice of hearing contained a statement of the time, place, and nature of the hearing; a statement of the legal authority and jurisdiction under which the hearing was to be held; a reference to the particular sections of the statutes and rules involved; and a short plain statement of the matters asserted. The hearing on the merits was held on March 29 and 30, 2010. All parties appeared and participated in the hearing. The record closed on May 7, 2010. Respondent was the principal ofCigarroa High School (CHS) during the 2007·2008 school year. During five students tried to register and enroll at CHS. The students were and all of whom were former students at CHS. United South High School (USHS), LBJ High School (LBJHS), and United Step Academy (USA) are schools in the United Independent School District (UlSD). CHS and Lara Academy (LA) are schools in the LISD. UlSD and LISD are the two school districts in Laredo, Texas. enrolled at on , she enrolled at She was reenrolled at and withdrew on in UlSD. On on On , she withdrew from

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

I'" .........
SOAH DOCKET NO. 701-09-3906.EC PROPOSAL FOR DECISION PAGE 22

8.

enrolled at on , she enrolled at reenrolled at on enrolled at on , she enrolled at was reenrolled at on enrolled at

, and withdrew on On n LISD. On , she withdrew from . and withdrew on On in UISD. On she withdrew from

She was

9.

She

10.

on , she enrolled at She was reenrolled at on enrolled at on , she enrolled at reenrolled at on

and withdrew on in LISD. On .

. On she withdrew from

11.

and withdrew on in UISD. On , she withdrew from

On . She was

12.

Duvina Rodriguez, the registrar at CHS, did not officially enroll , and when they applied for enrollment in Respondent told her to go through all the enrollment procedures and to give the students paper schedules but to not enter the information into the computer until they provided all required documents. Ms. Rodriguez and , the date Respondent told her to enrolled the students in the computer on do so. In , and were all issued paper schedules in which would not have been issued unless they had met all the requirements for enrollment. was treated in the CHS clinic on before her official enrollment date of was treated in the CHS clinic on before her official enrollment date on Students had to have been cleared for enrollment by the school nurse prior to their being able to visit the clinic. was unable to eat lunch in the school cafeteria because she was not registered and had to walk home for lunch. She attended class for two to three weeks after getting a paper schedule, went to the nurse's office during that period, and then after her official enrollment was the rest of the school year. attended classes in , although she was not officially registered until In part because she was not registered during had to . The Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) tests were administered at CHS from April 28, 2008, through May 2,2008. , , and were not enrolled until after the TAKS testing had finished, and none of them took the T AKS test.

13.

14.

15.

16.

17.

SOAH DOCKET NO. 701-09-3906.EC

-

PROPOSAL FOR DECISION

PAGE 23

18.

Respondent refused and failed to enroll the five students in even though they were eligible for enrollment subject to providing all the required documentation within 30 days. Respondent failed to administer the TAKS test to the five students. In refusing to allow Ms. Rodriguez to enroll the five students in the school computer in Respondent directed Ms. Rodriguez to falsify records, knowingly engaged in deceptive practices regarding official policies of the school district, and deliberately and knowingly misrepresented facts regarding the students. There is insufficient evidence to show that Respondent viewed the contents of secure test booklets. There is insufficient evidence to show that Respondent used coercive means or promise of special treatment in order to influence professional decisions or colleagues. Respondent did not attempt to conceal her misconduct, and has no prior violations in her 26 years of being a teacher and administrator. There is no evidence to show that sanctions are necessary to deter future violations. There is evidence that the Respondent's failure to register her by being partially responsible for her V. CONCLUSIONS OF LAW had some negative impact on .

19. 20.

21.

22.

23.

24. 25.

1.

The State Board for Educator Certification (Board) has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to TEX. EDUC. CODE ANN. (Code) ch. 21. The State Office of Administrative Hearings has jurisdiction over the hearing in this proceeding, including the authority to issue a proposal for decision with proposed findings of fact and conclusions oflaw, pursuant to TEX. GOV'T CODE ANN. ch. 2003. Proper and timely notice of the hearing was effected upon Respondent pursuant to TEX. GOV'T CODE ANN. ch. 2001. The Board may suspend or revoke the certificate of an educator who has violated the Educators' Code of Ethics, has conducted school or education activities in violation oflaw, or is unworthy to instruct or supervise the youth of this state, pursuant to 19 TEX. ADMIN. CODE (TAC) §§ 249.15(a) and (b).

2.

3.

4.

I"'" 'SOAH DOCKET NO. 701-09-3906.EC PROPOSAL FOR DECISION PAGE 24

5.

The Board has the burden to prove its allegations by a preponderance of the evidence pursuant to 1 TAC § 155.427. Based upon Findings of Fact Nos. 5 - 18, the Board showed by a preponderance of the evidence that Respondent violated Code §§ 25.001 and 25.002, and 19 TAC § 247.2(b)(1)(G) and (b)(3)(B), Standards 1.7 and 3.2. Based upon Findings of Fact Nos. 17 - 19, the Board showed by a preponderance of the evidence that Respondent violated Code § 39.023 and 19 TAC § 101.5. Based upon Finding of Fact No. 20, the Board showed by a preponderance of the evidence that Respondent violated 19 TAC § 247.2(b)(1)(F), Standard 1.6,19 TAC § 247.2(b)(1)(A), Standard 1.1; and 19 TAC § 247.2(b)(3)(C), Standard 3.3. Based upon Findings of Fact Nos. 5 - 20, the Board showed by a preponderance of the evidence that Respondent violated LISD policies: DH (LEGAL\ DH (EXHIBIT), EKB (LEGAL), and FD (LEGAL). Based upon Finding of Fact No. 21, the Board failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that Respondent violated 19 TAC §§ 101.27 and 101.63. Based upon Finding of Fact No. 22, the Board failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that Respondent violated 19 TAC § 247.2(b)(l)(f), Standard 2.6. Based upon Findings of Fact No.5 20, and 23, and Conclusions of Law Nos. 6 - 9, the Board showed by a preponderance of the evidence that Respondent is unworthy to instruct or supervise the youth of this state. Based upon the considerations set forth in 19 TAC § 249. 17(c), the Board should suspend Respondent's Texas Educator Certificate for a period of five years.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

11.

12.

13.

SIGNED May 25, 2010.

ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE STATE OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful