Four SISD senior administrators return to work, audit clears them of wrongdoing

KTSM
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013 - 7:49pm

SISD audit finds evidence of wrongdoing at Socorro and Americas High

Four Socorro Independent School District senior administrators returned to work Wednesday, after they were reinstated during a board meeting Tuesday night. 

The four administrators are Pat O'Neill, assistant superintendent for administrative services, his wife Rebecca O'Neill, who is the assistant superintendent for elementary education, Cynthia Lopez, assistant superintendent for secondary curriculum and instruction, and Holly Fields, who is the current director of special education secondary staffing, but is the former assistant superintendent of 21st Century Learning.

The findings of a 61-page audit report filed by the external firm Thompson & Horton LLP were presented during Tuesday's board meeting.  According to Socorro ISD Superintendent Dr. Jose Espinoza, the investigation found no intentional wrongdoing, so the administrators were cleared.

The audit addressed how course credits were awarded, how grade level classifications were determined, and how state mandated tests were administered between 2009 and 2012.

However, the audit found two isolated incidents at two schools, Socorro High School and Americas High. 

"The evidence that was found at those two schools is that students were moved up when they shouldn't have been moved up," said Espinoza.

At Socorro High School, four graduates were reclassified from the 10th grade to the 11th grade in the middle of the year so students could avoid taking the state mandated TAKS test, now the STAAR test.  The principal at Socorro High said the changes were done with the approval from the district's central office.  

At Americas High School, five graduates and nine other students were also reclassified, but the audit found no documents to show a reason why.  Most of those students were limited English proficiency students; several came from Mexico and had a history of not performing well on the TAKS test.

Those changes were done at the direction of the Americas High School assistant principal.

Espinoza said the findings of this audit are nothing like the cheating scandal at the El Paso Independent School District.

"Nobody conspired to cheat the TEA accountability system in the state of Texas, or the federal accountability system. That's how different it is from what happened in EPISD," said Espinoza.

Espinoza did not release the names of administrators involved at the campus level incidents, but said the district will handle the two situations appropriately.

 

AttachmentSize
Report of Findings - Socorro Independent School District.pdf28.06 MB

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