Wednesday, November 01, 2006


DA drops case against ex-HISD employee

Harris County prosecutors acknowledged today that they don't have enough evidence to convict a former Houston ISD employee accused of falsely changing Sharpstown High School's student dropout records.

Assistant District Attorney Terese Buess asked state District Judge Brock Thomas to dismiss the felony charge of tampering with a government document against Kenneth Cuadra as lawyers on both sides prepared to pick a jury later this week.

After reviewing Houston Independent School District computer records, Buess said she concluded there was no way to prove that Cuadra was the person who changed the dropout numbers to make it seem that no students dropped out of Sharpstown High School in 2002.

Cuadra was a school computer technician and the only HISD employee charged
criminally in connection with a dropout scandal that uncovered similar
under-reporting of at least 3,000 dropouts from Sharpstown and other

Hooray for Mr. Cuadra. He and his family have been through a lot over the past two years, and it is almost criminal that it took the Harris County DA's office this long to drop these completely false charges.

The Houston Independent School District (HISD) was roiled with controversy several years ago when a state audit revealed that the state's largest school district underreported nearly 3,000 dropouts.

Few people were disciplined for the outrageous scandal - and only one was charged with criminal offense. And that charge was merely an attempt at scapegoat.

"It rehashes a very unpleasant period," said Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers. "I think the DA's office is going to be highly embarrassed when the results come down."

"This is a case that should never be in trial," Fallon said. "Going after the computer tech is the most absurd piece of prosecution I've ever seen."

This was merely the case of the DA's office attempting to push a low-level school district employee into pleading guilty in order to make a public show of holding someone responsible - although not anyone actually associated with the fradulent reports.

There are reports that as of yesterday, the DA's office was pushing Mr. Cuadra to settle - when the CLEARLY KNEW that they did not have any evidence against him to take to trial. Shameful.

It is upsetting that no one responsible for these fraudulent HISD reports was held responsible - and it is upsetting that HISD and the DA's office would try to pin responsibility (and in the process damage the reputation) on someone they thought they could bully into the scapegoat role.

Not this time.

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