Audit findings prompt 4 SISD employees to be placed on leave

Audit findings prompt 4 SISD employees to be placed on leave
MGN Online
Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 10:20pm

Four Socorro Independent School District employees have been placed on administrative leave after an audit of the district identified certain "anomalies."

Pat O'Neill, SISD assistant superintendent for administrative services, Cynthia Lopez, assistant superintendent, Rebecca O'Neill, assistant superintendent for elementary education, and Holly Fields, assistant superintendent of 21st Century Learning.

The four have not been found guilty of wrongdoing but are being placed on leave while discrepancies found in the audit report are investigated.

At a special meeting Tuesday night, Socorro ISD superintendent, Dr. Jose Espinoza, suggested that an outside legal team be hired to determine whether or not these employees were purposely involved in the discrepancies.

In light of recent cheating scandals in neighboring school districts, Socorro ISD took it upon themselves to self-audit and identify possible issues within their own organization.

In March, they hired an auditor, Dr. Pam Padilla - a former Canutillo ISD superintendent -- to conduct the investigation.

Results revealed problems similar to those found in other school districts connected to alleged cheating.

Tuesday evening, Dr. Espinoza called the findings "disheartening."

The audit evaluated SISD's six high schools over a four year period. Twenty-one anomalies were found regarding student transcripts and grade placement.

"The results of Dr. Padilla's audit raise some serious concerns," said Dr. Espinoza.

Thirteen-thousand graduates were evaluated between 2009 and 2012, and anomalies were found in 9% of transcripts, which caused students to be misplaced in the wrong grades and ultimately, not have to take the TAKS test.

"We will leave no stone unturned in our search for the truth," said Dr. Espinoza.

According to the audit, some of these inconsistencies were caused by a "lack of administrative regulation" and others because of "administrative regulation."

"We're going to identify if there's still any students in our system right now who have been impacted by this," said Dr. Espinoza.

However, the audit did not find evidence that Socorro ISD ever refused to enroll a transfer student from Mexico, refused to enroll any other student, falsified grades or documents, or granted credit to students with little or no mastery of content by students.

Dr. Padilla recommended that Socorro ISD provide more training to administrators and staff regarding transcript evaluations and how to properly reclassify students into certain grades.

"It doesn't matter if they're English language learners, and it doesn't matter if they're regular students, we're going to make sure that they're placed in the grade that they're suppose to be in," said Dr. Espinoza.

In an effort to be more transparent, school board members voted to self-report their audit findings to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the US Department of Education, and the FBI.

Members announced they would begin implementing a corrective action plan as soon as possible, as well.

For more information on the Socorro ISD audit, visit

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