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New Mexico to school board: Fights? Acting out? You're suspended

September 21, 2012|By John M. Glionna

Move over Harper Valley PTA: The Questa Independent School District board in northern New Mexico may have just outdone you for crazy hijinks.

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.

Citing the regular fisticuffs, chaotic meetings and required police presence, the state Education Secretary Hanna Skandera recently suspended the entire Questa school board, saying that state officials would take over the running of the board.

The Questa Independent School District has about 510 students.

A report by Skandera’s office viewed by the Los Angeles Times claimed that one board member in the district, located north of Taos, N.M., 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. Then there were the heated disputes in which board members accused staff members of “immoral or illegal activities.”

The situation got so bad that the board could not reach a quorum on any issue and affairs ground to a halt, the report said.

Officials said the board had refused to follow its mandate to “work in harmony” with other board members.

Larry Behrens, a spokesman for the state department of education, told New Mexico’s Ruidoso News 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.

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john.glionna@latimes.com

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