Turmoil In Espanola School District

Photo of Principal Tom Graves taken in July at school board meeting shortly after he was hired to "turn around" EVHS. Valley Daily Post photo

Turmoil In Espanola School District

Staff Report

In what continues to be a chaotic year for Espanola Public Schools, Superintendent Eric Martinez announced Friday, Oct 14 the transfer of four principles from one school to another.

  • *Principal Robert Archuleta was removed from Sombrillo Elem. and assigned to EVHS.
  • *Principal Tom Graves was removed from EVHS and assigned to Hernandez Elem.
  • *Principal Fanny Castillo was removed from Hernandez Elem. and assigned to Abiquiu Elementary.
  • *Principal Isabelle Terrazas was removed from Abiquiu Elem. and assigned to Tony E. Quintana.

Superintendent Martinez laid out his reasoning for the switch in a press release, stating “Principals possess a wealth of knowledge and experiences that make them a perfect fit for some schools. Mr. Archuleta has been an excellent administrator for 30 plus years.  He has spent the majority of his career in administration and several years at the secondary level.  He is an excellent choice to lead EVHS to the next level of academic performance. Mr. Tom Graves has changed the culture of EVHS to place an emphasis on a learning culture. Mr. Graves is a turnaround leader, he is the person tasked with improving the instruction program at Hernandez Elementary School.  Mrs. Fanny Castillo has done an outstanding job changing the culture of Hernandez Elementary School. The communication between the school and the community is excellent. Mrs. Castillo is expected to continue her success as a cultural change agent at Abiquiu Elementary.  Abibuiu Elementary is an “A” school with excellent teachers. Mrs. Isabelle Terrazas is a principal with the ability to ensure parents and students focus on positive interactions at the school.  Mrs. Terrazas is expected to continue with eliminating distractions at TEQ Elementary. “ 

Parents and some staff who spoke on condition of anonymity expressed concern that the changes were causing disruptions at these campuses early in the school year.

“We have had 5 principals in 3 years.” Said one staff member at TEQ, adding  “These moves are totally political.  Last year we had a good principal at the end of the year (Peter Engler) but because he refused to bow to authorities, he was not rehired.”  Staff members also reported that they weren’t notified of these changes but learned of them on Facebook. 

Teachers at the other campuses expressed surprise over the sudden changes, but In particular the removal of principal Graves at Espanola Valley High School has been viewed by some members of the community as a disruptive event at the campus.

When reached for comment Principal Graves reported that he did not learn about the transfer until Saturday when Superintendent Martinez contacted him via text message. Graves reports that Martinez praised the work he had done to “turn around the high school” but now wanted him to turn around the Hernandez elementary. Graves was hired at the beginning of this school year and is nine weeks into his tenure at EVHS.

“I’m confused,” stated Graves. “There was no real prep or heads up. I was just told via text that I was transferred to the elementary to turn it around.”

Teachers at EVHS expressed mixed feelings. One teacher stated that teachers were demoralized because several of the policies implemented by Graves have been discontinued leaving school discipline systems in disarray.

Another teacher expressed staff sentiments with resignation stating that over the past three years there have been a lot of transitions and “You kind of get use to it and the actions in the administration don’t affect the daily business of teaching your classes”.  

Several parents and teachers stated that the perception is that the removal of Graves was an effort to rehire the former varsity basketball coach Richard Martinez. Martinez led EVHS to a state championship in the spring but was terminated a month later by then Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez after an ongoing investigation related to Martinez interactions with students and student athletes.

The State of New Mexico’s Public Education Dept. reported that they have been contacted by several individuals and are monitoring the situation. Robert McEntyre, spokesperson for PED stated “We’ve received a number of complaints regarding the Espanola school board and administration and we take each of these complaints very seriously. While we look into the allegations, we will continue to monitor the district to ensure they comply with the law and act in the best interest of their students.