Investigators detail corruption in Garland ISD foreign teacher program

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by DAVID SCHECHTER

Bio | Email | Follow: @davidschechter

WFAA

Posted on April 8, 2014 at 6:06 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 8 at 6:14 PM

GARLAND — An internal investigation by the Garland Independent School District found an employee profited handsomely by recruiting international teachers.

In addition, an investigator said a district leader knew of the problem and allegedly did nothing to fix it.

The investigation says human resource director Victor Leos gouged excessive fees from overseas bilingual teachers who he recruited to come teach Spanish for the Garland ISD.

In many cases, those teachers spoke no Spanish and were shifted to other subjects, the investigation found.

Garland’s new superintendent, Dr. Bob Morrison, arrived after the problems surfaced.

“All of our teachers that are here on an H1-B visa program are highly qualified to meet state standards, and are teaching currently classes they are certified to teach,” Morrison said.

Garland’s investigation also found that Leos — now retired — steered the foreign teachers toward renting rooms from Leos’ stepson, Paul Ruediger. Ruediger is also a district employee and has been placed on administrative leave.

Finally, the teacher’s immigration legal work was allegedly handed to the Yu Law Firm in Richardson, where Leos’ stepdaughter worked. Yu declined to comment, citing client-attorney privilege.

“We have serious questions about the billing practices of the Yu Law Firm. The bills that were sent to teachers and bills that were sent to the district do not appear to match up in a proper way," investigator Harry Jones said. "The Yu Law Firm is not cooperating with our request for information, and that’s part of why we had to report this to federal agencies.”

Investigators said an e-mail sent 14 months ago blew the whistle on the questionable practices. It was addressed to Assistant Superintendent Gary Reeves, who, they say, bungled at best.

Reeves is also on administrative leave.

“Everybody knows... everybody knows you don’t hand it to the accused harasser or abuser and tell him to take care of it," Jones said. "But Dr. Reeves' only response was to show to show the e-mail to Mr. Leos — the person accused of the abuses in the e-mail — and tell him to get with this guy. Fix it.”

The Garland ISD said it will cost a half-million dollars to refund overseas teachers for fees from their improper recruitment by Leos.

To get a sense of how unwieldy the program had grown, investigators point out that over a decade Garland recruited 642 overseas teachers.

Mesquite — a school district of comparable size — brought in 23 teachers, and Grand Prairie 17.

E-mail dschechter@wfaa.com

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