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Assistant superintendent testifies in EPISD cheating trial

EL PASO, TX - For the second day in a row, former EPISD Assistant Superintendent Damon Murphy is testifying in the trial of five former administrators accused of taking part in the district's cheating scandal.
 
Murphy, who has already pleaded guilty, but has not yet been sentenced, told the jury that he and others in EPISD, including the five accused, knew what they were doing was wrong. 
 
Former EPISD Associate Superintendent James Anderson, Tanner and assistant principal Mark Tegmeyer are charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Government. Former Austin assistant principal Diane Thomas is charged with retaliating against a witness or a victim. Former Austin assistant principal Nancy Love is charged with retaliating against a witness or victim and false declaration before a grand jury.
 
According to court documents, the cheating scandal was designed to allegedly artificially inflate schools' federal accountability scores. The administrators allegedly engaged in schemes designed to discourage at-risk students from registering in schools, to underrepresent at-risk student populations within the schools and fraudulently award class credits to students to falsely increase graduation rates of schools, change attendance records of students and manipulate students grade levels to avoid state accountability tests.
 
At one point, Murphy was asked by U.S. Prosecutor Debra Kanof about former EPISD superintendent Lorenzo Garcia teaching him how to write emails "under the guise of legality." Garcia was convicted in the cheating scandal and served two and a half years in prison.
 
"(Garcia) taught me how to craft them so they would appear legal," Murphy said on the stand. "He would stand over my shoulder and literally dictate to me until months went by and I learned how to do it on my own."
 
Some of those emails detailed testing Limited English Proficiency or LEP students in the Fall instead of at the end of the year in order to remove them from the 10th grade so they wouldn't have to take the TAKS test. Others involved how to award credit through mini-mesters, sometimes with as little as a hour of instruction for students.
 
"The purpose was to keep them out of the 10th grade accountability groups so we could better manage it," Murphy said. Murphy even admitted to having a rule about getting students out of the 10th grade before the test.
 
Murphy was asked about his relationship with Garcia, which was and down and sometimes even abusive.
 
"In 2008, he became extremely agitated about everything," Murphy said. "He blamed me for everything whenever things weren't occurring in the time span he wanted. He would blame me and scream at me."
 
Murphy is expected to remain on the stand Wednesday afternoon for cross examination. Stay with ABC-7 for the latest.

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