The state’s largest school district criticized new proposed science standards by the Public Education Department. The Albuquerque Public School board voted 5-1 to send a letter disapproving of the changes, which included removing specific references to increasing global temperatures and the Earth’s age, to the state Public Education Department. At issue are the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). So far, 18 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the 2013 standards. PED proposed adopting most of the standards—but with some key changes.
Yesterday Albuquerque voters turned out in (relatively) big numbers for the Albuquerque Public Schools Board election. In some districts of the city, voter turnout was nearly twice what it was in the 2013 election, the last time the same districts were up for grabs. Turnout ended at 6.6 percent of eligible voters for APS races. None of the school board races were particularly close, with all four winners clearing 50 percent in races with between four and six candidates. In District 1, incumbent Lorenzo Garcia won with 3,221 votes in the unofficial results, which came to 65.08 percent of the vote.
La Promesa Charter School in Albuquerque suspended an executive accused of fraudulently charging the school for personal services. The Albuquerque Journal first reported the news Tuesday night that the school suspended Analee Maestas, the executive director. Maestas also is the vice president of the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education and was silent until tonight on the allegations outlined by a report by State Auditor Tim Keller last week. Her only statement tonight, however, was to tell the Journal she took the allegations seriously and that she has an attorney. Maestas received reimbursement from the publicly-funded charter school for an air duct cleaning that appears to have been done on her home.
A national auditing organization reached out to Albuquerque Public Schools on Tuesday and asked the district to rethink the restructuring of the auditing department. David Jones, the city auditor of Seattle, penned the letter on behalf of the Association of Local Government Auditors (ALGA) asking APS Board President David Peercy to keep the district’s current internal audit processes in place. Jones also serves as the ALGA’s advocacy committee chair. “We believe these changes significantly weaken the District’s audit functions and could limit the transparency of the District’s operations,” Jones wrote. APS is seeking to eliminate the independence of its auditors and shift those responsibilities to other areas of the district.
A political action committee’s support of Steven Michael Quezada for Bernalillo County Commission is leading to questions because of the donors behind it—including from Quezada himself. Last month, the New Mexicans for New Mexico PAC paid for billboards that reference the actor and comedian’s most well-known credential—his supporting role as DEA Agent Steven Gomez in the cable TV drama “Breaking Bad.”
“Elect Breaking Bad’s good guy,” read the billboards, which also feature a picture of smiling Quezada and his name written in a font reminiscent of the opening credits of the popular TV series. The funders behind New Mexicans for New Mexico PAC, which is independent of Quezada’s campaign, are developers and lawyers with ties to Santolina, a controversial planned development of residences that the county commission approved zoning changes for last year. Santolina’s backers say the planned development could be home to as many as 90,000 people over the next 40 to 50 years. But the issue has sparked outrage from critics who call it sprawl development and point to British-based multinational bank Barclays, which owns the land Santolina is set to be built on, as the corporate driver behind it.
A response by an Albuquerque school board member to a candidate questionnaire appears to be directly lifted from a website without any attribution. And after speaking to those involved, it’s unclear who exactly copied the answer. When Steven Michael Quezada ran for his current spot on the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education in late 2012 and early 2013, he submitted answers to a candidate questionnaire with information ranging from basic personal information to his overall thoughts about education. Quezada’s answer in response to a question regarding the role of individual board members is identical to language from the National School Boards Association. Quezada, who is now a candidate for Bernalillo County Commission, told NM Political Report he wasn’t the one who copied the information but that he is ultimately responsible for the final result.
“At the end of the day, I signed off on it,” Quezada said.
Dozens of emails sent to Albuquerque school board members opposing a proposed change in rights for transgender students appear to have come from the same source. Last month, Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education member Peggy Muller-Aragon publicly stated her opposition to a school directive expanding rights for transgender students. After arguing that some parents may not be comfortable with their children sharing bathrooms and locker rooms with transgender students, Muller-Aragon said she received hundreds of emails from constituents who didn’t want to see the directive go forward. In fact, Muller-Aragon received close to 100 emails about the matter on her public school board account, according to records obtained by NM Political Report. Most of these appeared to copy language from an email from one source—a local Republican Party official
The proposed directive, for which the school board heard public comment last month, would comply with a section of federal law affirming rights for transgender students in public schools.
After an hour of passionate public comment on transgender rights, a Wednesday Albuquerque Public School Board of Education meeting ended with the district’s superintendent requesting further work. A majority of public comment was regarding whether transgender students’ rights should be protected under a federal law that also protects students rights based on gender. The Department of Education said in 2014 the law, known as Title IX, included protections on the basis of gender identity. Board member Peggy Muller-Aragón who was the only member who spoke against the measure, said she had received hundreds of emails in opposition. “The loudest side is not always the right side,” she said of the large number of people who spoke in favor of the measure.
An effort to recall an Albuquerque Public Schools board member ended not with a bang, but a whimper. ABQ Free Press reported Monday that the parent behind the effort to remove Peggy Muller-Aragon from the board will withdraw his petition on Tuesday afternoon. The parent, Jacob Gil, cited a lack of legal representation ahead of a hearing where a judge would determine if a recall effort could move forward. Gil did say that if he receives legal counsel, he will refile. From ABQ Free Press: With a hearing in the case scheduled for Sept.
With another superintendent out after a buyout and a new acting superintendent at Albuquerque Public Schools, it’s still unclear what the future holds for the position. Earlier this week, Luis Valentino resigned from his position as superintendent, the APS board announced Raquel M. Reedy as his replacement, at least in an acting superintendent capacity. After previous superintendent Winston Brooks resigned, the board hired Albuquerque City Councilor Brad Winter to fill the spot. Winter was interim superintendent for ten months. Brooks resigned last year after a board member hired a private attorney to look into a personnel matter.