El Paso principal involved in test-score corruption allegations for second time

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El Paso School District

The El Paso school district placed two high school administrators on paid administrative leave earlier this month amid allegations of test score cheating.

One of the administrators, Burges High School Principal Randall Woods, is still technically on probation for an earlier scandal at Burges involving charges of test-score manipulation and falsifying enrollment data.

Woods and Burges Assistant Principal Michael Paulino were placed on administrative leave effective March 15. In addition, a teacher, Gary Grammer, and counselor Susana Elias from the same school were reassigned to non-campus positions.

Also removed was Jefferson High School Principal Fred Rojas, who was reassigned as an assistant principal at a different school.

Ross Moore, president of the El Paso chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, told The Texas Monitor that the sanctions stem from teachers at both high schools being asked by administrators to change grades and attendance records.

“I got attendance and grading issues being reported to me, which I passed on to the district,” Moore said. “One [administrator] was telling people to change grades for sports eligibility.”

Moore said that despite the removal of personnel from the two campuses, the attempts to boost grades continue.

“We had [a classroom assistant] call a member and tell her to change a grade yesterday,” Moore said.

The district disputed Moore’s report of grade inflation at Jefferson.

District spokeswoman Melissa Martinez told the El Paso Times that there are no allegations of test score changing at Jefferson, but declined to comment on Burges.

Martinez told the paper that the district’s internal auditor is leading the investigation, without specifying the nature of the probe.

However, Moore told The Texas Monitor that he spoke with the internal auditor’s office and was told that the office was not leading the investigation and that Martinez was mistaken.

District spokesman Gustavo Reveles declined an interview request from The Texas Monitor.

The Texas Education Agency in 2017 gave Woods a one-year license suspension but probated that sentence, in connection with a 2010 state investigation into allegations of test-score cheating and enrollment data falsification in the district. What charges were substantiated against Woods is not clear. El Paso school officials would not comment on that case.

The district in 2013 tried to remove Woods as principal in the wake of that same test-score scandal, which sent former superintendent Lorenzo García to prison.

Garcia pleaded guilty to guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud in the test rigging and to steering a $450,000 no-bid contract for school materials to a mistress.

Woods, who has been principal at Burges since 2010, was left in that position after an outcry from the community. While his state sanction ended in June 2018, state records show the action remains pending and has not yet been fully lifted. In order to have it formally ended, the individual must submit a formal request to reinstate the license.

Woods did not respond to an email seeking an interview.

Burges, with 1,500 students, is one of the higher performing high schools in El Paso. The district overall ranked in the top 400 of 1,200 ranked in the state by the TEA.

Steve Miller can be reached at [email protected].

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