EPISD Bond moving along to benefit students

episd-carmenarrieta-candelaria-copyOn November 8th, the El Paso Independent School District received a significant vote of confidence from the community it serves. On that day, the voters approved a bond program that will fund a $668.7-million modernization of EPISD. The bond will help the District modernize most of its high schools, replace and fix outdated facilities and right-size the number of campuses EPISD currently operates. The bond also would fund a large technology investment at the middle-school level and provide money to help pay for security upgrades and new school buses.  In other words, the voters in EPISD felt it was time to invest in their schools at an unprecedented level.

I want to thank the El Paso community for the show of confidence it has given the District. We understand we have a hard task ahead of us as we work to complete the projects we communicated to the public. But we also know that we have assembled a team of dedicated, ethical and, best of all, highly prepared individuals who will help bring these projects to reality.

Throughout the informational campaign that preceded the election, we heard from many people who were aware of the needs the District faced and supported our schools in their effort to become better prepared to educate future-ready students. We want to thank these parents and residents for looking at the big picture and understanding that the investment that is about to be made into our schools will have a tremendous impact on the future of our neighborhoods and communities.

We also met individuals who expressed concern about the Bond, especially given the recent history of mismanagement in the District. We also wish to thank them for reminding us of the work that we need to do to regain the trust of everyone in El Paso. Under Superintendent Juan Cabrera’s leadership, EPISD has made strides in becoming a District that performs with ethics and character. We also have established new and improved policies and practices that create transparency in our operations so that the residents and taxpayers can feel more at peace knowing that their money is being used properly.

EPISD is moving forward with plans to begin the implementation of the 2016 bond. Already, our staff is working arduously to get a head start on the preparations that often come with the start of construction. The Board of Trustees has given the Administration up to 5 years to complete all Bond projects, and we intend to meet that aggressive timeline. As we await the selling of bonds and the selection of architects and builders, we know there is some work we can already be doing in house to help get those projects underway.

We also have taken three significant first steps in the implementation of the Bond Program:

  1. The Board of Trustees has approved the creation of the Bond Oversight Committee that will charged with providing an additional layer of accountability to each and every construction project. This committee — which will be made up of taxpayers and stakeholders who do not work for the District — will review documents, tour construction sites and provide key recommendations to the Board of Trustees.
  2. The Board of Trustees has entered into negotiations with the Jacobs Engineering Group for a contract that would manage all construction in the 2016 bond. Jacobs will help EPISD stay on time and on budget with all bond construction, and they also will help maintain an online tracker of bond projects that taxpayers and residents can review.
  3. The District has also approved the first issuance of the bonds in the amount of $200,000,000. These monies will move the bond program forward and allow the District to implement many of the short-term projects such as technology and playgrounds as well as hire the architects that will work on the brick and mortar projects.

As we head into the holiday season and reflect on the year that is about to end, I want to express my sincere gratitude to the EPISD community for the trust it has placed on all of us. We promise to keep you, and the 60,000 students in our District, on top of our minds as we push forward with the task of making EPISD a modern and future-ready school district.

Happy holidays! Have a wonderful break!

Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria

El Paso ISD

Deputy Superintendent

Finance & Operations

Former Board Manager returns to EPISD

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It’s such a pleasure to return to the El Paso Independent School District and serve the children of our community once again. Serving as one of the five members of the Board of Managers that was appointed by the state to move the District forward was a challenging but rewarding experience. And now, as the newly-appointed Deputy Superintendent for Finance and Operations, I am ready to continue working on behalf of the students, employees and taxpayers of EPISD.

Things have changed since I first was appointed to the Board of Managers three years ago. My colleagues and I came in with a strong group of community leaders to help rebuild and restructure the administration, which at that moment had been plagued by uncertainty. I was happy to bring to the district my expertise in public finance, school budgeting and financial management.

And while my time as a Board Manager had been my most high-profile position with EPISD, my journey with the District started many years before that. I first joined EPISD as the Budget Director in 1997 and later become Executive Director of Finance, Budget and Accounting until 1999. I continued my career in school finance when I become the Associate Superintendent for Finance at the Gadsden Independent School District, and then moved on to the City of El Paso where I was the Chief Financial Officer for several years.

A little more than a year ago, I left the city to take a financial management job in the private sector.

I am excited to return to EPISD and to public service. In this new role, I will not only oversee the District’s financial side of the house but also the operational one. EPISD Operations includes the facilities, maintenance and transportation. We will continue to streamline our systems and operations in order to be fiscally responsible and equitable. Ultimately, the more efficient and strategic we become, the more we will be able to invest in our academic programming, teachers, staff, and our most important resource — our students.

The District has experienced tremendous transformation under the leadership of Superintendent Juan Cabrera, and I am excited to be part of his administration.

—Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria, Deputy Superintendent for Finance and Operations.