Supporters of local control defend Cruces school board against PED overreach

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Tuesday night the Las Cruces Public Schools board of directors met for work and ProgressNow NM was there.


“I support local control!”

It was the first meeting since Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera sent a scathing letter threatening a state takeover of the board last week.

Tuesday’s meeting was full of supporters of the LCPS board, many wearing stickers that said, “I support local control.”

That’s feeling of local teachers, administers, parents and even students who feel that the PED secretary’s heavy-handed, top-down policies take needed control away from local schools. At points the audience applauded comments from the board and fellow attendees in calling PED’s accusations baseless and an intrusion into local matters.

From the Las Cruces Sun-News:

The board room at the LCPS Administration Building was nearly full Tuesday, filled mostly with district employees, union representatives and members of the community who had shown up to express their support for the beleaguered board. Others stood steadfastly in support of Superintendent Stan Rounds. Based on episodes when the room erupted in applause, it was clear that those in attendance all supported more local control.

Indeed the feeling around Las Cruces has been one mostly supportive of LCPS, including the editorial board of the local paper the Las Cruces Sun News (see that coverage here and here).


Some of the audience at Tuesday’s meeting

One of the most troubling points of this ongoing spat is that the initial letter sent from Skandera was apparently sent first to Bill Allen, the former head of the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, before it was sent to the board.

It’s unclear why the PED head would include Allen in such a communiqué for a couple reasons, namely, what business it of the GLCCC what elected members of the local school board and the un-elected PED secretary have between each other?

Additionally, Bill Allen stepped down from his post at the end of last year and no long even resides in New Mexico.

“She just stupefies me,” vice-president Chuck Davis said of Skandera. “The whole world knew of the allegations before I did.”

By way of response the PED spokesperson Robert McEntyre said: “The Las Cruces Chamber has been an active partner in public education for decades, and the business leaders they represent have a substantial interest in how their local schools are being run.”

In all fairness that is true, as last year the GLCCC actively supported Troy Tudor, who was at the time the vice president of the chamber, to run for the school board. He lost.

Artist: Bob Diven/for the LC Sun-News

Artist: Bob Diven/for the LC Sun-News

Charles Goodmacher of NEA-New Mexico told ProgressNow NM that, “From day one of their arrival in New Mexico, this PED has systematically undermined local school boards, while attacking our students’ teachers too. Drawing more and more power unto themselves, their attack on the LCPS school board is yet another politically driven attack.”

Many of the board members responded to the allegations independently over last week and the weekend, saying they were “deeply troubled” and “flabbergasted” by the letter and how it was “filled with inaccuracies.”  But at Tuesday night’s meeting the board took official action and voted unanimously to direct the board’s legal council to begin drafting a response to the various charges from PED.

We know these issues are important to you. That’s why we’ve been partnered with local education leaders throughout the state for years pushing back on Hanna Skandera and Susana Martinez’s failed education reforms.

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