As reported in the Los Angeles Times, New Mexico Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera recently suspended the entire school board of the Questa Independent School District in northern New Mexico, saying that state officials would take over the running of the board. Secretary Skandera cited the regular fisticuffs, chaotic meetings, and required police presence as some of the reasons for the takeover.
On the unofficial agenda were fistfights that ended meetings and caused members to storm out in view of an aghast public; accusations that board members pressured former superintendents to fire people; and violations of the Open Meetings Act when it came to discussion of illicit relations between a board member and a local teacher.
A report by Secretary Skandera’s office claimed that one board member in the district, located north of Taos, New Mexico, punched his own son in a school parking lot and then threatened the principal for reporting it to authorities. After the board member ordered an electrical line to the school dug up, causing classes to be suspended for a week, he was banned from coming onto the campus of the school, the report said.
The report also stated that police were often required at meetings, which ended without proper adjournment because members apparently simply walked out. There were also disputes in which board members accused staff members of “immoral or illegal activities.” Officials said the board had refused to follow its mandate to “work in harmony” with other board members.
Larry Behrens, a state education department spokesman, told a local news outlet that he did not believe a full school board had ever before been removed from power by the education secretary. A public hearing on the board members’ suspensions is scheduled for Nov. 5. Board members can fight the suspension during a public hearing in November. Until then, the state will oversee the district, the report said.
Source: Los Angeles Times, 9/21/12, By John M. Glionna