EL PASO TX — Canutillo ISD's soon-to-be former Superintendent, Doctor Damon Murphy fought back tears at the Board of Trustees meeting yesterday night... After Board members voted 6-0 to suspend his contract without pay and begin the process of firing him.
"It's a tough situation but at the end of the day, like I said before, we've made the best decision that's in the best interest of our kids and our community," said Board President, Armando Rodriguez.
At the special meeting Thursday night, the district's internal auditors presented the results of an investigation they did to find out whether schools within the Canutillo District were wrongly placing students in higher grades on purpose to prevent them from taking the mandatory 10th grade TAKS test.
According to the audit report, Superintendent Murphy ordered former Canutillo High School Principal, James Fry, to inappropriately promote 66 sophomores in the Limited English Proficiency program, to the 11th grade, halfway through their 10th grade year. Auditors found emails from former Canutillo High School Principal James Fry, that discussed ways the school could bump 10th graders up mid year so they could avoid taking mandatory tests.
Foreign students who were supposed to be registered as freshmen or sophomores were also bumped up to the 11th grade so they too wouldn't take the state and federal tests..
The auditors also found that the High School could not present the proper paperwork that explains why students were moved up mid-year. Canutillo High never even received approval to be reclassifying students in the first place.
The improper actions don't stop there.. Superintendent Murphy ordered the Special Education Director to shift Special Ed students around between different middle schools so there wouldn't be a large number of them in one place. Many Special Ed students were even blended into regular classes to hide their numbers.
The internal auditors based their findings on interviews, email searches, and research of student files. The cheating at Canutillo ISD appears similar to what happened at EPISD, which was ground zero for grade manipulation and inflating test scores.
"What happened at EPISD is what happened at EPISD. What we had to make sure what was going on in EPISD was not happening at Canutillo ISD," said Rodriguez.
Superintendent Murphy served as associate superintendent of the Priority Schools Division in EPISD before coming to Canutillo ISD. Lorenzo Garcia had created the position for Murphy to improve student performance on standardized testing.