August 10, 2016

PED let superintendent’s license lapse before renewing it

Public Domain

Headquarters of the Public Education Department in Santa Fe.

Public documents show the superintendent of a school district in Sandoval County worked for four months in 2015 on an expired state educator license.

But that superintendent, Allan Tapia of Bernalillo Municipal Schools, blames the state Public Education Department for not processing his license on time.

“If they didn’t process it on their end, I didn’t have control over that,” he said in an interview.

The documents, obtained through public records requests to the state by NM Political Report, show a 115-day gap between the expiration of Tapia’s administrative license and its renewal by the state Public Education Department last year.

They also show the state’s renewal of Tapia’s administrative license came nearly four months after his previous license expired.

State law requires superintendents to hold administrative education licenses to qualify for working at their jobs in New Mexico.

It’s the latest discrepancy to come from a division within PED that has been under scrutiny for its lackluster practices ever since news surfaced of the state’s licensing another superintendent in New Mexico who faked his credentials.

“Sloppiness in the department’s efforts is an ongoing concern,” said Charles Goodmacher, director of government relations at the National Education Association New Mexico, “because the process has to be 100 percent above board and clean for parents to have faith in the system that everyone working with their kids is properly credentialed.”

Tapia, who’s worked as superintendent in Bernalillo for five years, maintains that he did everything above board.

His application for a renewal that year is dated March 31—three months before his license expiration date.

“I knew that my license was about to expire,” Tapia said. “And I know that I filled out the application and sent it in much earlier than the four months that you were talking about. This actually kind of surprised me.”

But PED didn’t receive his application until Oct. 21, according to a stamp the state put on his application. That’s nearly seven months after Tapia said he submitted his application.

Two days later, the state processed Tapia’s renewal of his license, according to a screenshot from PED’s internal database system obtained by NM Political Report.

Allan Tapia

Bernalillo Municipal Schools / Bernalillo Municipal Schools

Allan Tapia

Still, Tapia said he received a copy his new license in the mail three months before PED actually approved it, though he didn’t provide documentation of this before press time.

“I had a license in hand on July 1, I do know that,” Tapia said.

Goodmacher, whose union represents teachers in Bernalillo Municipal Schools, emphasized that he has “no concerns about Mr. Tapia himself doing his job as superintendent.”

Rather, the problem lies with PED.

“The common denominator is Matt Montaño and other people in the licensure bureau itself,” he said.

Montaño is PED’s director of educator quality, the division that handles licensing across the state for all teachers and education administrators.

Montaño’s name appears on Tapia’s application in a handwritten note, instructing staff to “process as normal” despite receiving the application months after Tapia’s previous license expired.

Reached by phone Monday afternoon, Montaño referred all questions to a PED spokesman Robert McEntyre.

McEntyre didn’t respond to repeated requests to comment for this story.

Montaño previously worked with Tapia at Bernalillo Municipal Schools, first as a teacher and then a principal in the school district.

Montaño recently came under scrutiny for his role in the awarding of a license to the former superintendent of the Mora Independent School District who faked his credentials receive an administrative educator license.

That former superintendent, Charles Trujillo, resigned last fall after a Las Vegas Optic investigation revealed the forged credentials. After conducting an investigation, state police arrested Trujillo in Albuquerque last week on fraud charges.

Tapia said Montaño never contacted him during his license renewal process last year.

He also said PED never informed him about the late processing of his application until after NM Political Report alerted him to it earlier this week.

Tapia said Seana Flanagan, who works under Montaño as the department’s deputy director of educator quality, told Tapia all of the mistakes on his license was PED’s fault.

Flanagan didn’t respond to requests to comment for this story.

View Allen Tapia’s license documents below:

Allan J. Tapia Licensure_Redacted (Dragged) (5 Files Merged) by New Mexico Political Report on Scribd

Allan Tapia by New Mexico Political Report on Scribd