Thursday, June 13, 2019

How do we deal with corrupt School Board Members?

I have had reason to think about this issue. The state has seen too many cases of corrupt school board members. They take state funding which was allocated to education. That funding never reaches the students and the students do not benefit from the funding. They hire family members and underfund teachers while paying egregious salaries to school administrators.
I have a suggestion. An ethics committee that is made up of two parents, two educators and two legislators from the school district. They interview people to take the position of one policy administrator rather than a school board. The committee provides a short list of qualified candidates and then the governor or their representative picks from that list.

The candidate must meet basic skills and education level, must have been a classroom teacher at one time, must have skills in money management and have training and experience in the field of educational administration. 

This educational policy administrator would then be required to set policy and hire a school superintendent. They would be required to develop a relationship with the parents and educational staff within the school district that they oversee. Other duties could be developed by the legislator, governor, parents, and teachers of that school district. 

The candidate chosen by the governor or the head of the cabinet position would then have to stand for a non-partisan up or down vote by the residents of the school district and a retention election there after every four years.
This method would produce one individual who is held responsible by the legislator, parents, teachers, and the governor. They could not pass the buck by claiming it was another school board member. They would know what the policies were and how they were developed. This one individual could be bonded to protect local school districts. Yet they would still be accountable to the people that they service.  

This method would also prevent the long drawn out recall process by the citizens of a school district. If there was misconduct, then the governor or their representative could simply fire this individual and call an ethic committee to replace the person.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Los Cruces School Board Members Facing Recall

On June 11, 2019 District Court Judge James T. Martin from the 3 Judicial District Court in Dona Ana County ruled that a citizen group could proceed to collect signatures to recall three school board members. Judge Martin found the citizens group have provided evidence and testimony to show probable cause that Ray Jaramillo, Terrie Dallman and Maria Flores all violated The Open Meetings Act (OMA), The LCPS School Site Selection Policy, and The Inspection of Public Records Act (PRA) regarding the use of Administrative Leave. Should the citizens group be successful in obtaining the required signatures a recall election would be schedules at the local expense to determine if these three board members should indeed be recalled.  
The judge did not find that the other issues sited within the complaint were under the scope of the statue (NMSA 1-25 to 13) used to recall board members. This is not the same as finding that no wrong doing had occurred. The judge did rule that if these individuals appealed the ruling to the State Supreme Court that his order would be put on hold until such time as the State Supreme Court could decide if there were any reasons for them to hear the case.

The problem with local school board is that they consider themselves little kingdoms where they can break state laws without anyone holding them accountable. These boards often behave in very unethical manners that cause harm to the individuals working within the school districts. The PED has failed to provide oversite of these boards. The elected board members have been known to misuse state money and to provide outrages salaries for administration while failing to pay teachers and support staff a living wage. 

I would hope that the State Auditor’s office is already conducting an investigation to determine if any financial wrong doing was committed by these school board members. It is often the case that these type of issues come to light once the State Auditor’s office does an independent audit.  It would then be the state attorney general office’s responsibility to press charges for any misusage of state money.  

The governor and her PED cabinet member should follow up to ensure that misconduct stops when it comes to these school boards. While they are elected the governor does have oversight responsibilities and can even dissolve boards in the extreme in order to protect state funding to education. Past governors have considered such actions in the past due to misuse of educational funding. While in best case these board allow for local control of school districts by residents that live within the districts, worse case has members of these boards profiting off of taxpayer’s money and depriving students of a quality education.   

Other articles covering this story:

Case Numbers that can be looked up at the NM Courts Home under find a case: