Canutillo ISD takes issue with O'Rourke's request for an expanded investigation

Canutillo ISD's board members say O'Rourke is just playing politics

Canutillo School Board President Armando Rodriguez is a little offended by El Paso Congressman Beto O'Rourke's letter to the Department of Education.

"We've been requesting this since the beginning," Rodriguez said.

After the Department of Education found cheating took place at EPISD's Coronado High, O'Rourke asked the federal government to expand their investigation to all districts in El Paso County.

But Canutillo ISD's board members say O'Rourke is just playing politics. Rodriguez tells me that Canutillo ISD has proactively tried to get in front of the cheating issue by strengthening its internal audit function. Canutillo's internal auditors report directly to the school board. During EPISD's scandal, internal auditors reported to now imprisoned Superintendent Lorenzo Garcia.

But the Canutillo's board didn't stop there. Since last year, they've written the Texas Education Agency and the Department of Education, asking for guidance and training in how to prevent cheating. One letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan states, "If you or your office has information upon which you believe we should act, please contact me." They've never responded back.

"What we're trying to do in Canutillo is be proactive and doing it internally because there's no guidance from the state. And that's sad," Rodriguez said.

Other districts throughout the county have attempted to internally investigate themselves, including San Elizario, Socorro and Ysleta, which is paying $45,000 to conduct an audit. So, Rodriguez asks, why is O'Rourke asking the feds to come in?

"It comes to question the thought process of what is actually going and why they're trying to address issue when we've tried to communicate with these individuals," Rodriguez said. "I believe TEA is hiding from their own failings. They failed to identify the problems in EPISD twice, failed to identify the problems statewide."

Rodriguez wants the TEA audited, and is requesting O'Rourke expand his request to a statewide investigation. In response, O'Rourke told ABC-7 the following:

"We know that there were problems at EPISD and that those involved with cheating at EPISD also worked at other independent school districts in El Paso County. As far as what is appropriate for other communities, I will leave that decision up to those who represent those areas."

Board President Dee Margo said the EPISD internal auditor will check out what the Department of Education found at Coronado High. Margo said some of the findings were poor, and he's asking O'Rourke to verify the claim that cheating actually took place at the school. 

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