Principal directed administrators to change grades at San Marcos High

Former San Marcos High School Principal Kelli Lopez (SMCISD Photo)
Former San Marcos High School Principal Kelli Lopez (SMCISD Photo)

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — The San Marcos CISD superintendent received support on Monday from the district’s board of trustees, following the admission by the San Marcos High School principal that she changed up to 100 grades. Principal Kelli Lopez resigned on Wednesday, Sept. 28. 

On Monday, KXAN learned other people employed by San Marcos CISD were involved in changing grades under Lopez’s leadership, according to Superintendent Michael Cardona.

“We do know that there were other people involved,” Cardona said, according to Lopez’s word and a statement. “She directed certain actions of certain people. So we know who those people are.”

Cardona says those people are other administrators. Currently, no one is being disciplined because Lopez took responsibility. Cardona told KXAN Lopez said, “No one else should be punished because I made a choice as a leader to do this.”

Rita McGuire has a son who is a junior at San Marcos High School and said this is about more than coming clean. It’s about how altered grades could tarnish class rankings, which impact college scholarships.

“He is supposedly in the top five percent so does that change now,” McGuire asked. It’s questions like this the district is working to answer. McGuire and other parents tell KXAN there hasn’t been enough communication from San Marcos CISD leaders.

“The whole situation was handled very, very poorly,” McGuire said.

The trustees released a statement saying they have “complete confidence” in Cardona’s handling of the matter. “The investigation is continuing, steps are being taken to remedy all issues and the Board expects to receive an update on corrective measures at the October 17 meeting,” the trustees said.

Cardona said the investigation began last Monday, September 26, when another staff member tipped them off to Lopez’s actions. She admitted to the allegations when she was approached by the administration.

“We’re not trying to hide anything,” Cardona said. “We are looking at every student’s record to ensure that what we’ve done and what we will continue to do is do what’s right by our kids.”

The superintendent says though changing grades could impact graduation rates, there is no money tied to to how many students graduate. But, it does factor into the state’s accountability test, done yearly through the Texas Education Agency to determine whether a school meets Texas standards. KXAN checked back to 2013, the year before Lopez became principal at San Marcos High School, and found the school has met state standards every year, though the graduation rate is below the state average.

“I think that this leader thought that they were helping students,” Cardova said. “We don’t have that there was any monetary issues, there was nothing from state funding or anything.”

It’s that help, as Cardona put it, that McGuire hopes doesn’t hurt other students like her son.

“I’m very, very concerned about the future of our kids,” she said.

Lopez was reported to the Texas Education Agency and could now lose her certifications. The superintendent said students were not aware their grades were changed and they will not be negatively affected. “Children shouldn’t be punished because of the actions of the adults,” Cardona said Friday.

When asked if there were any benefits or bonuses in a principal’s contract for having a greater graduating class, Cardona said, “We don’t do that here in San Marcos. We have a 2-year contract and they get a salary and that’s pretty much it.”

The superintendent tells us by the next school board meeting, on Oct. 17, they hope to have a clearer idea how many grades were changed, by how much and what safeguards to put in place so this doesn’t happen again. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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