Last week the New Mexico Public Education Department released grades for teacher preparation programs offered at higher learning institutions across the state.
The Albuquerque Journal reports 13 educator training courses were assessed and graded by the department. The University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University and Central New Mexico Community College each received a B grade. The remaining programs all received Cs. None were given an A grade.
The grades are part of a new rule that went into effect this summer, requiring oversight of teacher preparation programs. The new rule states that if a program receives an F grade, it will be put on probation for two years, and PED will ultimately be able to deny licenses to its graduates if it fails to improve during the probationary period.
PED says the system grades acceptance rates of program candidates, student performance and how well graduates rate in NMTEACH, the state teacher evaluation system. Some educators have reportedly taken issue with the rule, saying the department is making grades based on uncontrollable criteria such as diversity of applicants or whether students stay to work in New Mexico.
Padilla Pleads Not Guilty
Former New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department Secretary Demesia Padilla has pleaded not guilty to charges of embezzlement and corruption.
Padilla faces 7 corruption counts, including accusations that she embezzled nearly $25,000 from former accounting client Harold's Grading & Trucking and used her official position to interfere with a tax audit, both of which are felony charges. The remaining charges are all misdemeanors. According to The Associated Press, Padilla could face up to 16 years in prison and as much as $20,000 in fines if convicted of all charges.
One of Gov. Susana Martinez' original Cabinet appointees, Padilla was allowed to remain free on her own recognizance as long as she does not consume alcohol, makes no attempts to communicate with witnesses and does not leave the state.
A district judge has scheduled jury selection for the trial to begin in May.
LANL Accused of Violations
The New Mexico Environment Department has accused Los Alamos National Laboratory of violating its hazardous waste permit.
According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, state officials sent a letter to lab officials last month accusing the lab of sending construction waste to sites in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Colorado between 2015 and 2017 without proper notification and labeling. The letter said the environment department was seeking penalties that could include fines of up to $10,000 per day for each violation, a state District Court injunction and revocation or suspension of permits.
According to NMED, the waste included materials from construction and demolition projects at the laboratories. Lab officials say the discrepancies did not place the environment or members of the public at risk. In a statement, a spokesperson for the lab pointed out that of thousands of hazardous waste containers shipped during that time, only four were found to have labeling discrepancies.