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State Takes Over Espanola Schools Finances
Concerns over fiscal mismanagement in Espanola Public Schools have led the State’s Public Education Department (PED) to step in and take over. Thursday afternoon the PED submitted letters to the Espanola Public School Board and Superintendent Eric V. Martinez informing them that effective immediately, the local school district has lost the authority to manage their own finances.
In a letter dated Nov. 17 addressed to the school board and superintendent, Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera said “Effective immediately, I am suspending Espanola Public Schools from acting as a Board of Finance. Therefore, the approved Fiscal Year 2017 operating budget will be implemented under oversight of the PED.”
Robert McEntyre, spokesperson for PED explained the department’s decision saying, “Over the past several months, it has become abundantly clear that the Espanola school district is incapable of managing their finances. Not only does this take away from taxpayers, but also the students.” McEntyre added “Among other things, the district has failed to account for their spending or operate within a budget; there are a number of questionable contracts have been awarded that appear designed to flout state law; and they have submitted several false and inaccurate financial reports to the state. Given these circumstances, the Public Education Department has now assumed control of the district’s finances to ensure that funds are managed responsibly and under the law.”
McEntyre also cited numerous community concerns that have been forwarded to PED regarding student safety. Students, parents, and teachers have reported a culture of fear and intimidation, stemming from individuals related to former varsity basketball coach Richard Martinez being placed in certain positions. These concerns have been reported to the Superintendent without action.
PED has also reported that the superintendent has allowed individuals without background checks or licenses to serve in teaching roles in the school district, in violation of state law.
And in an apparent reference to the mid school year shuffling of five principals in October, PED also highlighted concerns over “Abrupt school leadership changes in the middle of the semester”. Concerns raised by PED also included the “significant presence of a number of long-term substitute teachers greatly threatens the stability of schools during the school year and undermines the ability of students to learn.”
In a written statement McEntyre addressed these issues saying “We’ve outlined these concerns to the Superintendent and demand swift action to address these issues. Should the district fail to take action, there will be serious consequences and the department will take the necessary steps to ensure that every student is safe and that they have the positive learning environment that they deserve”.