Former E.P.I.S.D. Associate Superintendent Pleads Guilty To Fraud Scheme
In El Paso today, 50–year-old former El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) Associate Superintendent Damon Murphy admitted to defrauding the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) by artificially inflating state and federal student accountability scores announced United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr., Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Douglas E. Lindquist, El Paso Division; and, U.S. Department of Education Inspector General Kathleen S. Tighe.
Appearing before Senior United States District Judge David Briones, Murphy pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. By pleading guilty, Murphy admitted that he and others implemented a scheme between February 2006 to September 2013 to violate the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) portion of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in order to keep EPISD compliant with program requirements. Fraudulent misrepresentations regarding EPISD's Federal Adequate Yearly Progress standards (AYP) were submitted to the Texas Education Agency and the DOE in order to make it appear as though EPISD was meeting and exceeding AYP standards. In the 2008/2009 school year, Murphy, admittedly, gave EPISD high school principals “marching orders” to “put up barriers” to prevent 9th grade Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students and others who they perceived would perform poorly on the TAKS test from going on to the 10th grade. Later, Murphy and others implemented a plan using partial course credits for the 10th grade to reclassify and promote those held-back students to the 11th grade thereby circumventing all mandated testing/accountability procedures including the 10th grade TAKS test.
Murphy, who remains on bond pending sentencing, faces up to five years in federal prison. No sentencing date has been scheduled.
All five of Murphy’s co-defendants remain under a six-count federal grand jury indictment unsealed in April 2016. They are: 41-year-old former EPISD Assistant Superintendent James Anderson; 52-year-old former Austin High School (AHS) Principal John Tanner; 52-year-old former AHS Assistant Principal Mark Phillip Tegmeyer; 53-year-old former AHS Assistant Principal Diane Thomas; and, 48-year-old former AHS Assistant Principal Nancy Love. Jury selection is scheduled for February 13, 2017, before Judge Briones in El Paso.
This ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Education Office of Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorneys Debra Kanof, Robert Almonte and Rifian Newaz are prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.
It is important to note that an indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. Anderson, Tanner, Tegmeyer, Thomas and Love are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.