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 Auditor Tim Keller is warning school districts of the possible consequences of not conducting background checks or following state-mandated licensure rules for school personnel. In a risk advisory issued to school districts Tuesday, Keller’s office writes that the “most obvious” consequence is “the potential danger to students and fellow school personnel.”
The risk advisory also warns that without proper licensing, the risk of embezzlement or misuse of public funds is increased and that a lack of qualifications can lead to incompetence. Not following the rules could also open up the district to litigation for negligent hiring or supervision. The advisory follows scandals throughout the state involving licensing for those working in schools. Perhaps the most shocking was in Albuquerque Public Schools, where a deputy superintendent facing a trial for sexual assault of a child was hired without a background check or even applying for a license to work at a school district.
A report from State Auditor Tim Keller released Thursday takes a former Española Public School District principal to task for allegedly misusing more than $12,000 from a candy fundraiser last year. Though the audit doesn’t list the former principal’s name, NM Political Report has learned it’s referring to Norma Lara, who used to head San Juan Elementary. “In addition, the same Principal was found to be pocketing money from game gate fund wherein she was responsible for maintaining certain gate receipts during the games,” the audit reads. “The receipts turned in to the athletic director were found to be off sequence.”
Lara, who is now a first grade teacher at Pablo Roybal Elementary in Pojoaque, did not return a handwritten message sent to her classroom this morning. Specifically, the audit states that it examined records from 10 teachers who participated in the fundraiser, which was meant to raise money for student activity funds, along with Lara’s records.
A Mora superintendent who faked his educator license credentials officially resigned last Friday, a week and a half after surrendering his license to the state Public Education Department. The Board of Education for the Mora Independent School District released a statement on the same day criticizing Charles Trujillo, who was named superintendent just earlier this year. “We express our deep disappointment that Mr. Trujillo chose to use deception and counterfeit to ultimately obtain his employment with the School District by utilizing an elaborate hoax, and the Board (h)as now acted to bring these lies to a final conclusion,” the school board wrote, as reported by Las Vegas Optic. “The Board of Education shares your concerns and that of the New Mexico Department of Public Education (“PED”) with regard to the reprehensible conduct of Mr. Trujillo who while employed with PED falsely obtain(ed) licensure and regarding the subsequent use of public funds used to pay for his salary by school districts since the PED issued his unearned licenses.”
The newspaper called the board’s action a “major shift,” noting that the board president did not take the charges seriously when he was first notified about the discrepancies. When the Optic first informed George Trujillo that it would be publishing a story that Charles Trujillo had faked his credentials in order to obtain his administrative license, George Trujillo issued a statement supporting Charles Trujillo and chalking the Optic’s story up to “small town politics.”
Trujillo’s fallout comes after a Las Vegas Optic investigation published last month that revealed his faulty credentials.
Mora Independent Schools must stop paying the superintendent who reportedly faked his credentials, the Public Education Department secretary said. The district’s school board had previously voted to allow Charles Trujillo to continue receiving pay while the allegations were investigated. But the Santa Fe New Mexican reported that Hanna Skandera says that he cannot be paid. “There is no further investigation necessary with regard to his licensure status or his eligibility for employment,” Skandera wrote in a letter to the school district. “Should the district refuse to comply with the law, please be advised the [Public Education Department] will take all action as authorized by law to correct the situation.”
The New Mexican says that while Trujillo has yet to resign, an agenda item on the Mora school board’s next meeting says they will accept his resignation.