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CISD Board president discusses impact of internal audit on superintendent's employment by the district

By Whitney Burbank, WhitneyB@kvia.com
Published On: Dec 05 2012 07:08:04 AM CST
Updated On: Dec 05 2012 07:50:29 AM CST

ABC-7's Whitney Burbank Reports

CANUTILLO, Texas -

Could Canutillo Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Damon Murphy be out of a job? CISD School Board President Armando Rodriguez said it depends on the results of an internal audit.

Murphy's been paid a six-figure salary since he signed on as CISD superintendent in February 2010, and should continue to earn his $171,000 plus per year salary until the end of his contract in February 2014, but Rodriguez says that could all change on Thursday. 

"I strongly believe the group of seven individuals, the board, and their number one interest is making a decision that's in the best interest of the community," said Rodriguez. 

Murphy's contract of employment with Canutillo ISD, and possible action, will first be discussed by the board in executive session and then in open session, according to the agenda that was posted Monday night.

Rodriguez says board members previewed a portion of the unfinished audit on Monday. "The fact that part of the progress report that the auditors gave was that they were ready to present on Thursday, so that prompted us to place an item on the agenda," said Rodriguez. "We placed that item...so if we needed to act on it or have any type of discussion of course through the open meetings act we would have to post that."

Also on Thursday's agenda is "discussion with and receive report from Internal Auditor regarding review of transfer credit process, procedures and student cohort information."

Rodriguez said the findings are part of audit that began in June 2012, two months after EPISD revealed a federal investigation had uncovered a four-year-old email from Murphy's account, The message gave principals and administrators a directive to make incoming foreign high schoolers and high school freshmen be placed in ninth grade even if they deserved to be placed higher than the ninth grade.

"I have no comment about what happened two years ago in a different district. I have no idea what Dr. (Terri) Jordan put forth in that press conference," said Murphy in May at a Canutillo ISD board meeting.

"We can only evaluate (Murphy) for what he does at the Canutillo Independent School District," said Rodriguez regarding the details of the internal audit set to be released on Thursday. 

According to Canutillo's 2001-2011 graduation rates provided through a Texas Education Agency website, since Murphy's two-year tenure as superintendent, the district has experienced its highest graduation rates in a decade. ABC-7 showed the figures to Rodriguez on Tuesday, "That is part of the audit process." he said. "If those issues are part of what is going to be discussed on Thursday then we will discuss those issues."

While Rodriguez admitted CISD is concerned with how the district places and evaluates students, especially those students who are not fluent in English, he maintained the allegations of grade-level manipulation and hiding of foreign students at EPISD are separate from the internal audit at CISD.  

"What happened in the El Paso Independent School District is what happened in the El Paso Independent School District. What we have to do as a board is to monitor and to assure that what was happening in El Paso is not happening in Canutilllo Independent School District, unless other authorities or other people with investigative authorities act."

In September Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams visited El Paso and pledged to purge co-conspirators in the EPISD cheating scandal from area schools. 

In response to Williams' public outcry, Rodriguez said the board asked him for additional information in a Nov. 6 letter addressed to Williams. It reads,"We're concerned you expect action on our part because our current superintendent worked at EPISD."

Rodriguez says the board has yet to receive a response from Williams, even after reaching out to the TEA a second time on Friday. 

When asked if he found the lack of communication frustrating, Rodriguez smiled and replied, "We have to do what it is within (CISD) to make sure that we do what's in the best interest of our community." Rodriguez said that includes discussing, vetting, and potentially taking action the details of CISD's internal audit.

A CISD Spokesman said Murphy did not want to comment on the agenda for Thursday's meeting. 

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