October 19, 2015

Report: PED licensed superintendent based on forged credentials

A Las Vegas Optic investigation into whether a Mora superintendent forged his state educator administration credentials is prompting at least two outside investigations into the matter.

ThinkingOver the weekend, the newspaper ran a story it had been working on for five months concluding that Mora Independent Schools District Superintendent Charles E. Trujillo, in the story’s own words, “faked his credentials in order to qualify for the administrative license he received.”

The discrepancies include Trujillo faking a Highlands University transcript to show that he had a Master’s Degree, lying that he was employed as an education administrator for seven years instead of two and a half years and exaggerating that he worked as an adjunct instructor at Luna Community College for six years instead of three years.

The state Public Education Department (PED), according to the Optic story, gave Trujillo an administrative license based on his Master’s Degree, for having more than six years experience as an education administrator and more than six years experience as an instructor.

All ended up being not true, according to the Optic.

But perhaps even more troubling is how Trujillo was actually in charge of the PED’s Licensure Bureau in 2013.

Then, his tasks included making sure all state educator licenses issued were by the book. During this time, Trujillo was issued the administrative license he needed to qualify for the Mora superintendent position. The Optic story also implicates Matthew Montaño, the PED’s Quality Division director.

Both the PED and Highlands University announced they will be conducting investigations into the matter.

To Charles Goodmacher, a spokesman for the National Education Association New Mexico, actions by the PED and Trujillo appear to break several state statutes establishing ethics guidelines for educators and administrators.

These include refraining from “assigning professional duties to nonprofessional personnel,” making “false or misleading statements” and allowing or helping “unqualified or unauthorized persons to engage in teaching or other employment within a school,” among others.

Goodmacher stressed that this applies to upper staffers in PED like Montaño for assisting Trujillo in the process.

“When they put their signature on something they’re completely responsible,” he said in an interview with New Mexico Political Report. “I think the higher up the person is, these big picture things about professional standards and conduct, these apply more.”

This isn’t the first time PED has come under scrutiny for educator licensure discrepancies. In 2011, the Santa Fe Reporter found discrepancies in the licenses of two administrators who worked at the agency.

The following year, the newspaper reported on an internal PED investigation into similar allegations. While some staffers raised concerns at the time about allegations of falsified licenses, PED eventually dismissed them as unfounded.