Española School Board Votes To Sue State Public Education Dept.
ESPAÑOLA – On Wednesday night the Española Schools Board of Education met in closed session to discuss next steps after the Public Education Department (PED) twice refused to approve the district’s request to close Velarde Elementary and consolidate it with Alcalde Elementary.
After a long closed session the School Board members came out and in open session voted to sue PED in order to force the department to approve the plan to close Velarde Elementary. The vote was three to zero with Ruben Archuleta and Yolanda Salazar abstaining from the vote. Española Schools are in the middle of budget preparations for the 2015-16 school year and are facing a $1.9 million shortfall. Closing Velarde Elementary could save the district between $198,000 and $250,000*.
In an interview before the school board vote, Interim Superintendent Bobbi Gutierrez stated that there were some questions around why PED authorized the closure of Mountain View Elementary but not Velarde when the request to close these schools was made on the same motion in February and with identical documentation.
In a letter dated May 22, PED declined to approve the Velarde closure stating that requested information regarding how the school board gave the public opportunities to participate in the decision making process had not been delivered.
Española Superintendent Gutierrez stated that all materials for the Velarde closure were identical to those for the Mountain View Elementary closure which was quickly approved.
What was evident is that that PED has received many letters and telephone calls from community members opposing the closure of Velarde Elementary. As previously reported in the Valley Daily Post, Secretary Skandara wrote in the May 22 letter to the school district that “I have received a number of letters and emails in opposition to the request. While it is unlikely that a decision to close a community school will not draw any opposition, the letters and emails allege that the district did not vote to close the school in a properly noticed public meeting and that the public was not given the opportunity to comment on the proposed closure. If true, this would deny the community the opportunity to be a part of the process and have meaningful input in the decision.”
Española Superintendent Gutierrez stated that the school district’s law firm will now file a case against PED in District Court.
More will be reported as this story develops.
*Article updated to include a range of possible savings rather than the higher number of $250,000.