Acting Education Secretary Promoted
Gov. Susana Martinez announced last week that Christopher Ruszkowski, acting secretary of education since Hanna Skandera's resignation in June, will be taking the position on permanently. In a press release published on the governor's website, Martinez said, “I’m confident that Christopher will bring the energy, enthusiasm and leadership needed to help New Mexico’s students succeed in the classroom.” But some teachers and education employees are concerned with his views on standardized testing in general and PARCC in particular. Ruszkowski has openly criticized teachers unions for not offering up more solutions to the state's education problems. He also criticized the Albuquerque Public Schools district, which he says has failed to properly implement “data-driven” instruction and state reforms. Ruszkowski recently met with APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy, who says she supports the new secretary's academic plans for the district. Ruszkowski first made his mark in New Mexico in April 2016, when he came to oversee the Public Education Department’s research agenda, policies and academic priorities. Before that, he worked for the Delaware Department of Education. Until the New Mexico Senate officially confirms his appointment, Ruszkowski will be considered secretary-designate, which has the same authority as the education secretary.
Fluoride Decision Postponed
The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Board considered a proposal last week that would have resumed supplemental fluoridation of Albuquerque’s drinking water. The proposal requested $260,000 in capital appropriations to pay for equipment needed to see the project through. A number of speakers both for and against fluoridation spoke to the Utility Board last week, where members voted against taking up a funding measure for immediate action. New measures cannot be considered for immediate action unless five of the seven voting members agree, under the Board's rules. Only three members voted to consider the measure, postponing the decision until Sept. 20. The US Public Health Service changed the federal drinking water standards in 2015, recommending that water systems contain 0.7 milligrams per liter of fluoride to prevent tooth decay. Supplemental fluoridation of Albuquerque's water stopped in 2011. The practice began in 1972.
No Violations Found in Investigation of Navajo Housing Authority
After months of criticism, the Navajo Housing Authority was cleared of any wrongdoing by investigators with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Regional investigators visited housing projects on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico and Arizona earlier this year. They were investigating claims that federal grant money was being misspent by the authority. According to a report published by the Arizona Republic last year, only 1,110 homes were built on the reservation over the last 10 years, using over $803 million in federal block grant funding. The investigators interviewed residents and reviewed housing plans and contracts between the Navajo Housing Authority and developers. The report found one incident in Arizona in which the housing authority did not retain legal control of a site, causing some houses to stay vacant for a number of years. Otherwise, investigators reported that reforms taken by the Navajo Housing Authority over the last few years have resulted in improved oversight. According to the report, which was made public last week, the danger of the authority misspending government funds is low.