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STATE OF NEW MEXICO

PUBLIC EDUCATION DEPARTMENT


300 DON GASPAR
SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO 87501-2786
Telephone (505) 827-5800
www.ped.state.nm.us
SUSANA MARTINEZ

HANNA SKANDERA

GOVERNOR

SECRETARY OF EDUCATION

January 26, 2016


Ms. Barbara Hall
Secretary
Las Cruces Public School Board
16 Lebanon Arc
Las Cruces, NM 88001
bhall@lcps.k12.nm.us

Ms. Maria A. Flores


President
Las Cruces Public School Board
4210 Senna Drive
Las Cruces, NM 88011
Maflores54@gmail.com

Mr. Chuck Davis


Vice President
Las Cruces Public School Board
1909 Burke Road
Las Cruces, NM 88007
cdavis@zianet.com

Mr. Maury Castro


Member
Las Cruces Public School Board
6070 Flores Ct.
Las Cruces, NM 88007
Maurycastro33@yahoo.com

Mr. Ed Frank
Member
Las Cruces Public School Board
4111 Bella Sierra Ct.
Las Cruces, NM 88011
edfrankschoolboarddistrict5Qgmail.com

Dear School Board Members,


For almost a year, since this board of the Las Cruces Public Schools has been seated, a number of complaints
have been received by my office regarding the behavior of the board both individually and collectively. These
complaints have included allegations of rolling quorums and other open meeting violations, overstepping of the
boards authority regarding the day-to-day operations of the district, and the unwillingness of the board to follow
state law regarding the teacher evaluation system, the latter resulting in a directive from my office requiring the
district to provide information necessary to effectively complete teacher evaluations.
In recent weeks a number of similar complaints have been received that indicate the board continues to operate
in a manner that is not consistent with statute and outside of its charge. I have asked staff to look into all of the
allegations and have determined that a number of actions taken by the board are not within the scope of its
responsibilities and could be in violation of the Open Meetings Act. These include but are not limited to:

A directive made by the board president to the superintendent "put it in a drawer we don't necessarily
have to act" regarding my directive to report teacher absences as contained in the NMTEACH Protocol
in direct defiance to the regulations and NMAC.

Asking the Superintendent to leave an open meeting being held at a board retreat in order for the board
to meet with principals. Minutes from the meeting quote the board president noting "the board
discussed the matter amongst themselves and decided the superintendent would not be part of the
discussion". The minutes do not reflect this discussion, indicating the discussion had been conducted
outside of the meeting suggesting either a rolling quorum, a polling of the board, or an illegal meeting.

At the same meeting the board president stated that "the board would like board representative at all
principal meeting for the purpose of evaluating the superintendent". Again, there is no record of this
discussion or a recorded vote indicating the discussion had been conducted outside of the meeting
suggesting either a rolling quorum, a polling of the board, or an illegal meeting. In addition, I must
again remind the board that the supervision of principals is the sole responsibilities of the superintendent
and the presence of board members at all principal meetings as a matter of course undermines the
authority of the superintendent.

The board president ordering the district business manager to enter into a contract with outside counsel
to conduct an investigation of a district program and the superintendent without the approval of the
board. It is important to note that the supervision of all district employees falls solely to the
superintendent and board members should go through the superintendent if they require any action or
service. It is important to remember that the president serves at the pleasure of the board and is not
empowered to make unilateral decisions regarding decisions reserved for the board.

The board directing to the superintendent how the LEAP/Jump program would be managed including
that the supervisor of the principal would be responsible for the program essentially results in the
principal being removed, a directive that is outside of the purview of the board. Further, the
requirement that the district would retain and assign an administrator not employed by the district to
evaluate the principal and program is outside of the authority of the board and amounts to an illegal
directive to the superintendent. The board also put the superintendent on notice that failure to follow
this directive would be considered insubordination. All of these actions are an over reach of the boards
authority, responsibility for all personnel actions including hiring, firing, and assigning district staff falls
solely with the superintendent.
The board noting at its May 5, 2015 meeting regarding the LEAP program, "we felt like we had to act"
and that "the Board will take action to defund the program" both of these are indicative of a rolling
quorum, a polling of the board, or an illegal meeting. At the same meeting, one of the board members
noted that "all of us have met with staff' this further indicates a rolling quorum, a polling of the board,
or an illegal meeting without administration present. This is significant overreach by the board.

A discussion by the board vice-president and several members at a recent board meeting of a meeting
between these board members and the editorial board of the local newspaper, in direct conflict with the
Open Meetings Act.

A resolution of the board admitting to Open Meetings Act violations and "correcting the record" of
actions and determinations that appear to never have occurred, and then at a later date, the board revised
the resolution to correct its own record of actions and determinations. It appears that the board cannot
keep track of their own violations of the Open Meetings Act and needed to change the record to align
with what should have occurred if proper actions had taken place.

The board allowing IT staff members who filed a grievance against the district and who were not
satisfied with the outcome to enter an executive session of the board to air their grievance. In this
executive session, the employees were permitted to ask the superintendent questions regarding the
grievance, in direct violation of the superintendent's statutory role to hire and fire all employees of the
district. This is a violation of the grievance policy of the school district and not an item subject to
executive session in violation of the Open Meetings Act. Further it has been brought to my attention
that the board's attorney advised the board against this action the board moved forward with the meeting
disregarding the advice.

The board president removing the district's long-time attorney and engaging a new attorney without the
approval of the board. The board president notified the superintendent that the current attorney would
no longer be representing the board. The board president also notified the superintendent that she would

notify both attorneys. This action is in violation of the roles and responsibility of the superintendent as
the Chief Executive Officer of the district and an overstep of the board. When notified by another board
member that this action required board approval, the president noted that it would be on the agenda for
the next meeting. Further, the board president escorted the new attorney to the central office and a
limited number of schools to introduce the attorney to staff. At one point a number of board members
showed up to meet the attorney at one location, it is unclear how so many of the board members knew
how to be in one place at one time unless a rolling quorum, a polling of the board, or an illegal meeting
had taken place. If fact, one board member at a time was required to be out of the room at a time to
prevent a quorum of the board meeting. Since all were at the same place for the same reason, I believe
that a quorum of the board was present and that a violation of the Open Meetings Act took place.

As you can see, the number of concerns that can be confirmed is significant and point to a consistent and
deliberate intent to circumvent the roles and responsibilities of the school board under the laws of the State of
New Mexico. The number of violations of the Open Meetings Act is an affront to the transparency required of
school boards to ensure public confidence in the oversight and conduct of the Las Cruces Public Schools. These
violations of the Open Meetings Act will be reported to the Attorney General's office for investigation and
action.
Secondly, it is clear that members of the school board either do not understand or choose to ignore their roles
and responsibilities in providing oversight of the school district. School board members are charged with
certain responsibilities, none of which relate to day-to-day operations, the hiring and firing of staff,
administrative oversight, or personnel actions. The board has very specific responsibilities and has chosen to
over-step its boundaries with regard to these responsibilities. As a result, I am directing the school board to
undergo training specific to its roles and responsibilities as well as training specific to the Open Meetings Act.
This training must be completed within 60 days with documentation of attendance provided by the New Mexico
School Boards Association. Refresher training will be scheduled at least twice annually until such time the
board demonstrates that it can operate within the scope of its charge.
I expect the board takes seriously these requirements, failure to meet these requirements could result in my
taking action to suspend the board until such time as these issues are addressed and I am confident that the Las
Cruces Public Schools are operating under the provisions of law that govern school board responsibilities.

Regar

Hanna Skandera
Secretary of Education
cc: The Honorable Susana Martinez, Governor of New Mexico
Hector Balderas, Attorney General, New Mexico
Stan Rounds, Superintendent, Las Cruces Public Schools
Joe Guillen, Executive Director, New Mexico School Boards Association