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NM education secretary seeks action against LCPS Board of Trustees

In response to a series of complaints, New Mexico’s secretary of education is seeking legal action against the Las Cruces Public School Board of Trustees.

In a letter to trustees, Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera said her office has received complaints regarding the behavior of the board both individually and collectively, including allegations of Open Meetings Act violations and of the board overstepping of its authority regarding the day-to-day operations of the district.

Skandera added that she has asked her staff to look into all of the allegations and has determined that, “a number of actions taken by the board are not within the scope of its responsibilities and could be in violation of the Open Meetings Act.” Skandera said violations of the Open Meetings Act will be reported to the Attorney General’s office for investigation and action.

The LCPS Board of Trustees is also accused of being unwilling to follow state law regarding the teacher evaluation system, prompting Skandera to issue a directive directive from her office requiring the district to provide the information necessary to effectively complete teacher evaluations.

Skandera outlined instances when the board could have been in violation of the Open Meetings Act. She said the board once asked the superintendent to leave an open meeting being held at a board retreat in order for the board to meet with principals.

Skandera said Board President Maria A Flores also ordered the district’s business manager to hire a firm to investigate a district program and the superintendent without the approval of the board.

During a board meeting, board Vice President Chuck Davis and several board members allegedly discussed those board members’ meeting with the editorial board of the local newspaper.

“As you can see, the number of concerns that can be confirmed is significant and point to a consistent and deliberate intent to circumvent the roles and responsibilities of the school board under the laws of the State of
New Mexico,” Skandera wrote.

Skandera she she feels board members do not understand or choose to ignore their roles and responsibilities in providing oversight of the school district.

“School board members are charged with certain responsibilities, none of which relate to day-to-day operations, the hiring and firing of staff, administrative oversight, or personnel actions,” Skandera wrote. “The board has very specific responsibilities and has chosen to over-step its boundaries with regard to these responsibilities.”

Skandera has ordered the school board to undergo training specific to its roles and responsibilities as well as training specific to the Open Meetings Act. This training, according to the letter, must be completed within 60 days with documentation of attendance provided by the New Mexico School Boards Association.

Skandera added that she expect the board takes seriously these requirements, and that failure to meet these requirements could result in the board’s suspension.

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