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Canutillo ISD Superintendent’s Alleged Wrongdoing While At EPISD Raises Concerns

The Canutillo Independent School District released a statement Wednesday in light of strong accusations against the record of its superintendent, Dr. Damon Murphy.

Murphy spent four years as an associate superintendent at the El Paso Independent School District before becoming the current superintendent of the Canutillo ISD in 2010.

The accusations against Murphy were made Tuesday morning. El Paso Independent School District interim superintendent Terri Jordan said she is deeply troubled by a 2008 email written by Murphy that indicates an alleged attempt to wrongfully hold incoming foreign students in the ninth grade even if those students deserved to be in higher grades.

Jordan’s statements about Murphy were part of a news conference in which several other “significant failures” by the EPISD were aired out, including a practice of holding students back or promoting them to higher grade levels so as to skew state-mandated standardized test scores.

In the Aug. 12, 2008 email Jordan cited from Murphy to Bowie High School principal Jesus Chavez and other principals and directors, Murphy wrote: “A student coming in from out-of-country should be placed in 9th grade regardless of out-of-country transcript notations. The student may accelerate to a higher grade level based upon those out-of-country transcript notations, but not during the initial year of U.S. enrollment in EPISD.”

“Ladies and gentleman, that is a stunning and deeply troubling directive from a former top official of this school district,” Jordan said during the conference. “Such an order disregards district policy and causes great harm to children who have received some education in another country and who should be immediately placed in the correct grade. To order such students held in the 9th grade for an entire year is unconscionable. The email directive from Murphy is especially troubling when considered in light of the district’s own internal audit and the ongoing federal investigation into whether students were improperly retained in ninth grade or promoted to the 11th grade to avoid being tested in 10th grade and counted as part of the school’s rating Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal No Child Left Behind education law.”

Murphy has not made himself available for interviews. The school district’s public information officer, Gustavo Reveles, sent a statement Wednesday partially stating, “In light of the comments made by officials in the El Paso Independent School District on Tuesday, April 24, the Canutillo Independent School District feels it necessary to address its practices as they relate to the placement of students coming into the District from foreign countries.

The District follows every state and local policy regarding the admittance of students into its schools, including the residency requirements that are outlined in policies FD (LEGAL) and FD (LOCAL). The district then follows policies FDA (LEGAL) and FDA (LOCAL), which governs interdistrict transfers and the admittance of students from a foreign country.”

Reveles said there is no indication of any irregularities at Canutillo ISD. Board President Laure Searls told ABC-7, “What’s happening in El Paso is not a reflecton of what’s happening in Canutillo. We have extremely high standards in Canutillo.”

Parents at Canutillo High School told ABC-7 Wednesday they would still like Murphy to address the content of the e-mail released by EPISD.

Reveles said anyone with lingering concerns should go to Canutillo ISD’s next board meeting, as certain issues pertaining to EPISD’s comments will be addressed.

ABC-7 contacted the Texas Education Agency to find out if and how Murphy could be held accountable for any alleged wrongdoing from his days at EPISD. The TEA said it is a possibility if an investigation is initiated and finds culpability. A spokeswoman said she is still working on confirming whether Murphy is currently under a TEA investigation, though she said a quick search in their databases does not indicate that that is the case.

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