APS Board Member Resigns
Albuquerque Public Schools board member Analee Maestas resigned last week following allegations of involvement in a case of embezzlement at a charter school she founded. According to reports, Maestas officially announced her resignation in a short email submitted to the Board of Education only four minutes before she was expected at a board policy committee meeting. Last month, State Attorney General Hector Balderas threatened legal action against Maestas if she refused to resign following an investigation into La Promesa Early Learning Center—a charter school founded by Maestas in 2008—conducted by state Auditor Tim Keller which found that her daughter, La Promesa's assistant business manager, had embezzled around $700,000 dollars in school funds. According to Keller's report, some of the money was stolen during Maestas' tenure as the school's executive director. Maestas, herself, was accused of altering a receipt for home maintenance work to appear that the repairs had been made to the school. Although she continued to deny the allegations, the school placed her on administrative leave. She subsequently left the school in September 2016. The school board will now be required to vote for an interim member to represent District 1 until the February election. The elected board member will serve through 2019, the remainder of Maestas’ term. If the board does not fill the seat within 45 days, a replacement will be chosen by the state Public Education Department secretary.
Education Secretary Responds to Science Standards Criticism
A proposed set of changes to the state's science standards for public schools presented by New Mexico's public education secretary has caused a number of educators and science advocates across the nation to voice concerns over the omission of references to global warming and evolution. The proposed changes are based on the Next Generation Science Standard (NGSS), but with some major differences. Included in these were substitutions for the words “rise in global temperatures” with “temperature fluctuations,” and “evolution” with “biological diversity.” The new standards would also omit any mentions of the Earth being an estimated 4.6 billion years old. Earlier this week, hundreds gathered at the state capitol to speak out against the proposed changes outside a public hearing on the draft standards. In a public message, Public Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski said the new standards will give teachers and families “flexibility” and allow for more local control around science education curriculum. He did not specifically address concerns with regarding omissions and rewording.
More Staff Resigns from Water Agency
Three members of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission resigned last week amid what appears to be a massive agency turnover. In the last five months, the commission's director, legal counsel and numerous senior staffers have resigned. Chairman Caleb Chandler, Jim Wilcox and longtime board member Jim Dunlap all turned in letters of resignation within 24 hours of each other. In an email to Gov. Susana Martinez, Dunlap said he had “great concern for [the] lack of direction from the State Engineer and adherence to New Mexico State Statutes.” With the resignation of three directors, the commission cannot make official decisions. Now the governor must appoint new commissioners.