Ex-Canutillo ISD Superintendent Damon Murphy surrenders educator certificate

EL PASO, Texas - Dr. Damon Murphy has voluntarily surrendered his Texas educator certificate according to the State Board for Educator Certification website.

A voluntary surrender of a certificate occurs as a result of an educator's voluntary relinquishment of a certificate, in lieu of disciplinary proceedings, and renders that certificate permanently invalid.

The voluntary sanction by Murphy took effect on May 28, 2014.

In mid-April, the Texas Education Agency filed a petition to punish 11 educators, including Murphy, who were allegedly involved in the El Paso Independent School District cheating scandal.

Those named in the petition were Murphy, Terri Jordan, James Anderson, Maria Flores, Mirna Gamboa, Norma Regina Gonzalez aka Gina Oaxaca, Kathleen Ortega, Jesus Chavez, Anna Luisa Kell, Juan Manuel Duran, and Johnnie Vega.

According to the petition, the TEA asked the administrative law judge "enter a proposal for decision up to and including permanent revocation of the Texas Educator certificates of each respondent listed in the petition."

Read the full petition at

In Sept. 2013, some EPISD employees mentioned in connection with the cheating scandal received letters from the TEA.

EPISD Board of Managers President Dee Margo told ABC-7 in Sept. 2013 that "the letters are the TEA's response to the evidence in the Weaver report."

That's the audit EPISD commissioned to investigate the extent of the scheme to cheat the federal accountability system. The fraud landed former superintendent Lorenzo Garcia in prison. 

The state's education agency requested the district turn over its findings in July. 

Margo said EPISD has nothing to do with the letters some employees mentioned in the report received in September but he understands the TEA is putting some employees on notice that their professional certification is under review.

EPISD released the 86-page report by Weaver and Tidwell, LLP on April 1, 2013. The auditor was hired by the district and conducted the audit from Nov. 5, 2012 to Feb. 8, 2013.

Weaver and Tidwell, LLP conducted and documented at least 154 witnesses, including individuals from Central Office and at least nine campuses. Former employees also were interviewed.

Of more than one million emails downloaded from the district's current and former email systems, 98,000 emails were pulled from more than 60 current and ex-staff members' current and archived email data files.

In April 2013, EPISD revealed that a federal investigation had uncovered a four-year-old email from Murphy's account that 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," Murphy told ABC-7 in May 2013 at a Canutillo ISD board meeting.

Murphy maintained he did nothing wrong.

In the Aug. 12, 2008 email from Murphy to Bowie High School Principal Jesus Chavez and other principals and directors, Murphy said, "A student coming in from out-of-country should be placed in 9th grade regardless of out-of-country transcript notations. The student may accelerate to a higher grade level based upon those out-of-country transcript notations, but not during the initial year of U.S. enrollment in EPISD."

"Ladies and gentleman, that is a stunning and deeply troubling directive from a former top official of this school district," Jordan said in a statement in April 2013, while she was interim superintendent of EPISD. "Such an order disregards district policy and causes great harm to children who have received some education in another country and who should be immediately placed in the correct grade. To order such students held in the 9th grade for an entire year is unconscionable. The email directive from Murphy is especially troubling when considered in light of the district's own internal audit and the ongoing federal investigation into whether students were improperly retained in ninth grade or promoted to the 11th grade to avoid being tested in 10th grade and counted as part of the school's rating Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal No Child Left Behind education law."

EPISD's former superintendent, Garcia, pleaded guilty to steering an expensive, no-bid district contract to his then-mistress. He also pleaded guilty to manipulating the district's test scores by not allowing who he perceived as low performing students to enroll or forcing them to skip or be held back a grade. Garcia would get bonuses when the district met state and federal standards that included passing the tests.

Murphy, who has worked in the education field more than 20 years, worked at EPISD for four years as Associate Superintendent for Secondary and Priority Schools.

"He led the charge to turn-around many of the district's failing schools," according to Murphy's bio on the Canutillo ISD website when he was superintendent. "When he began, EPISD had over 25 campuses in some sort of state or federal sanction. Under his direct supervision, that number was significantly reduced. As a result, Dr. Murphy and his team were awarded a "Top 10" school improvement program designation by the Texas School Business Organization.  Dr. Murphy has become well-known around the entire state of Texas as a leader who knows how to improve schools and turn-around school systems."

Related Content: 

April 1, 2013 - View EPISD audit broken down by high school

April 1, 2013 - EPISD Audit: Findings and recommendations

April 1, 2013 - EPISD releases audit into cheating scandal

April 2, 2013 - Parents, community members start petition to reinstate embattled administrators at EPISD schools

April 3, 2013 - EPISD reinstates 7 of 8 administrators at high schools after outcry by students, parents at board meeting

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