SISD administrators cleared of wrong-doing

EL PASO, Texas - Four Socorro Independent School District administrators are cleared of wrong-doing Tuesday night, after an investigation into district-wide policies was concluded. 

They are longtime El Paso teacher, coach, and athletic director Pat O'Neill, who is now assistant superintendent of administration; Rebecca O'Neill, assistant super for elementary education; Dr. Cynthia Lopez, assistant super of secondary education, and Dr. Holly Fields, director of secondary staff.

Houston-based law firm Thompson and Horton concluded the regulation in question, the "EIE regulation," was not illegal. The also found there were no supervisors who gave directives to staff to "drop students." Thompson and Horton said although "top-level administrators should have done a better job evaluating the regulation," no criminal activity took place. 

The law firm also found isolated instances of suspicious activity. They told the board one assistant principal at Americas High had a significant number of grade reclassifications, pushing students past the 10th grade into the 11 grade. Superintendent Jose Espinoza said he believes there was "no malicious intent to harm students." He said appropriate action will be taken to ensure compliance with district rules in the future. 

The EIE regulation was created in 2007 by Superintendent. Dr. Sylvia Atkinson. She's now assistant superintendent for support services at Brownsville ISD.  The EIE regulation allowed the district to hold the transfer credits of Mexican students. 

Socorro ISD would put them in the ninth grade regardless of how many credits they had when they enrolled and regardless of hold old they were. After they completed the ninth grade, those transfer credits would be added and result in those students being placed in the 11th grade, bypassing the 10th grade and the STARR test in the process.

Dr. Pam Padilla, who conducted the initial audit, writes in the audit that this tactic made state accountability ratings "inaccurate or misleading."

The four administrators put on leave were in Atkinson's cabinet at the time the EIE regulation was designed. 

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