Burges administrators changed grades for student-athletes, EPISD audit finds

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An audit conducted by the El Paso Independent School District found that administrators at Burges High School asked brand new teachers to change the grades of student-athletes.

The audit, titled “Investigation Report: Allegations of Course Grade Change for Athletic Eligibility Reasons,” was released on the EPISD website Friday.

The audit did not name the school, however, an EPISD district spokesman confirmed the audit was launched after allegations of grade-changing at Burges High School.

In late March, EPISD removed six officials, including Burges principal Randall Woods and assistant principal Michael Paulino. Susan Elias, a Burges counselor, and Gary Grammar, a teacher and soccer coach, were also removed. Woods and Paulino were placed on administrative leave and Elias and Grammar were reassigned to non-campus positions. 

The next day, Ross Moore, president of the El Paso American Federation of Teachers, told KTSM teachers and administrators had changed records, which prompted the removal of administrators.

According to the audit, administrators asked new teachers, who had just met their students, to change the grades of two students from a 69 to a 70. Anything below a 70 would cause students to be academically ineligible for extracurricular activities, including competition. 

“We confirmed the finalized and posted grades by the teachers of record were changed after the assistant principal had a conversation with the two New Teachers asking them to help out Students A and B with their failing grades,” the audit stated.

One of the teachers asked a counselor if this was allowed and the administrators allegedly said it was allowed, the audit said. The teachers had not gone over the proper grade-changing procedures, the audit said. 

The teachers had just replaced teachers who had retired in December. The retired teachers, who had previously finalized the failing grades, were not consulted and did not “consent” to the new grades.

The reasons for changing the grades were also fabricated, the audit said. Auditors did not find evidence that the “grade was not updated,” or a “computational error,” as were the reasons listed on the forms. 

One teacher was even offered new desks in his or her classroom, the audit said.

The students were also interviewed and said the reason their grades were changed was so that they would be eligible to play in sports. “The New Teachers also stated the grades were changed so the students could play sports,” the audit said.

The audit concluded the following:

“We confirmed two course grades for the second nine-week period for fall 2018 were altered for two student athletes by campus staff to boost their grades from failing to passing for athletics eligibility reasons. We obtained statements and documentation corroborating the allegations; however, the campus administrators/ staff in question denied wrong intent.

We made recommendations with the purpose to assist District administration (i) in focusing on improvements to processes and strengthening the District’s internal controls related to course grade changes, (ii) to minimize the risk of similar events occurring in the future, and (iii) take appropriate and timely corrective actions in accordance with local and state policies.”

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