Joey Peters has been a journalist for nearly a decade. Most recently, his reporting in New Mexico on closed government policies earned several accolades. Peters has also worked as a reporter in Washington DC and the Twin Cities. Contact him by phone at (505) 226-3197.
A Santa Fe district court judge handed down fines to the state’s Public Education Department Thursday afternoon for failing to properly respond to public records requests from a teachers’ union. The state must pay nearly $500, plus attorneys fees, for failing to abide by the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). The main contention was the union’s records request centered around National Education Association New Mexico (NEA) attorney Jerry Todd Wertheim said was “the core of public debate over the teacher evaluation system.” The union asked for all public documents associated with a claim often repeated by PED Secretary Hanna Skandera and others over the years—that the previous state teacher evaluation system found more than 99 percent of the state’s teachers competent. They said this showed it was not an effective evaluation.
A man who claims he killed Jaquise Lewis in the March 22 Los Altos Skate Park shooting spoke anonymously to KOB-TV last week. The TV news segment featured the man’s silhouette and didn’t release his identity “because he has not been charged with a crime, and police have not finished their investigation.” The report described him as a 22-year-old father. In the report, the man said he carries a gun with him everywhere he goes. He used it that night, according to what he told KOB, when he saw an argument over a skateboard escalate into gunfire. The man said he saw 17-year-old Lewis shoot two people.
New Mexico employers must compensate workers who are medical marijuana patients for the cost of the medical marijuana, according to a recent ruling from the state Court of Appeals. On Friday, June 26, the court concluded that American General Media had improperly blocked workers’ compensation for medical marijuana for one of its employees who suffered from chronic pain. The court also ruled that federal law classifying marijuana as a Schedule 1 illegal substance doesn’t supersede New Mexico’s law allowing marijuana use for medical purposes. The case concerned Sandra Lewis, who has suffered from chronic pain after sustaining a work-related injury in 1998. She has been enrolled in the state’s Medical Cannabis Program since 2010.
Bernalillo County commissioners approved the next big step for the Santolina planned community on yet another narrow vote Wednesday afternoon. The 3-2 vote came after several heated exchanges between commissioners and accusations that some lawmakers’ actions were stifling debate on the controversial planned development. The vote continued the familiar allegiances over the issue, with commissioners Wayne Johnson, Lonnie Talbert and Art De La Cruz voting in favor of the Santolina Development Agreement and commissioners Maggie Hart Stebbins and Debbie O’Malley voting against. Last week, the commission approved both the Santolina Level A master plan and zoning changes for the property. Santolina is proposed to be built on 22 square miles west of Albuquerque over the next 40 to 50 years.
New Mexico’s largest public school district wants the state to take a second look at nearly one-third of the evaluations the state conducted on its teachers. As of Friday, June 19, Albuquerque Public Schools submitted formal inquiries on behalf of 1,671 teachers to the state Public Education Department over problems with evaluations. That’s just over thirty percent of the 5,538 APS teachers who received state evaluations this year. APS spokeswoman Johanna King was careful to explain that the district doesn’t necessarily believe that all 1,671 contested evaluations are wrong. She said some of the inquiries ask for clarifications or more information, while others question an entire evaluation’s validity.
Schools can no longer deny students access to programs because they refuse to take psychotropic medications, references to a key aspect of No Child Left Behind are gone forever in New Mexico public schools and e-cigarettes are now considered tobacco products, according to new state laws that went into effect today. June 19, 2015 marks the day when roughly half of the new legislation passed by state lawmakers in the 2015 session becomes law. In total, 79 new laws are now in place. They include a bill sponsored by state Rep. Nora Espinoza, R-Roswell, called “No Compelled Medication Use For Students.” It bars school administrators and employees from compelling “specific actions by the parent or guardian or require that a student take psychotropic medication,” according to its fiscal impact analysis.
The Albuquerque city council narrowly rejected a measure that would have called on the city to weigh in on a controversial planned development on the city’s West Side. Councilor Isaac Benton carried the bill Monday night, two weeks after the council rejected his introduction of similar legislation that would have also given the city a say on the Santolina master plan. Benton said the city had a right to influence the master plan based on the city and county adopted Planned Communities Criteria and the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Comprehensive Plan. But councilors rejected the bill on a 4-3 vote, with two members abstaining because their employers own some land where Santolina is planned to be built.
During the debate on the legislation, Benton stressed that he wasn’t asking for anything drastic. “We’re not asking for signoff approval,” he said.
Critics of New Mexico’s teacher evaluation model often point to an unfairness in letting a teacher’s job performance weigh so heavily on standardized test scores. Now, several questions are being raised about whether this testing material has anything to do with subjects many instructors actually teach, or even the students in their classroom. In most cases across the state, the New Mexico Public Education Department bases half of a teacher’s yearly evaluation on standardized test scores results. A bad evaluation, ultimately marked as “ineffective,” means that teachers in some cases can’t advance up to a higher teacher license level, which would bring a higher salary. At worst, some teachers may lose their license and be out of a job.
An Albuquerque city councilor plans on making a second attempt at getting city government to weigh in on a controversial planned development currently awaiting approval from the Bernalillo County Commission. Earlier this month, a majority of city councilors, led by Trudy Jones, rejected Councilor Isaac Benton’s introduction of a measure that would have given the city authority to approve the Santolina master plan. Now, Benton said he’ll reintroduce the same bill at tonight’s city council meeting. “Over my objections, a majority of the City Council voted in an unprecedented move to remove the bill from the Letter of Introduction,” Benton wrote in a note to constituents last week. That move, according to both Benton and Albuquerque City Attorney Jessica Hernandez, actually wasn’t legal under city guidelines.
One summer nearly 40 years ago, a group of roughly 25 people gathered on Central Avenue to march for gay rights in Albuquerque. It was the summer of 1976, seven years after the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village that launched Gay Pride marches in cities throughout the United States. That year, Juniper, a local gay rights advocacy group, and Albuquerque’s Metropolitan Community Church put together the city’s first Pride March. That event stayed relatively informal. “There was little notice,” PJ Sedillo, a special education professor at New Mexico Highlands University who led Albuquerque Pride through the 1990s and 2000s, said.