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Superintendent accuses top education official of retaliation

August 21, 2018

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The superintendent for Santa Fe schools is speaking out against a top official from the state education department who singled out her school district in a report.

An annual report by the Public Education Department released last week shows that more than half of Santa Fe schools received a D or F grade.

Currently, the Santa Fe school district is the “most concerning” among the state’s largest school districts, said Christopher Ruszkowski, the Secretary-designate for the department.

When districts fare poorly, “you have to look at the superintendent,” Ruszkowski said.

“I have never seen a secretary single out a school district in this manner,” said Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica Garcia.

She believes Ruszkowski’s comments are a form of retaliation for her support of a lawsuit against the state education department that she was a lead witness for. She has also spoken out against the Public Education Department’s decision to appeal the ruling which said New Mexico is violating the constitutional rights of “at-risk” students.

She disagrees with the notion that the grade shows her district is in crisis.

When asked for comment on the accusations, Ruszkowski said in a statement that the Santa Fe school district should ask itself why the similarly-sized Gadsden Independent School District, which is has a higher percentage of students from low-income backgrounds, is earning better grades.

The Santa Fe school district’s Board President Steven Carrillo also found issues with Ruszkowski’s comments.

“To attack Dr. Garcia in that way, given the stature of his office, I think was wholly inappropriate,” he said.

He thinks school grades should emphasize proficiency scores more.

School grades primarily measure student growth, not solely proficiency, the state education department said in a statement Monday.

“Santa Fe is really struggling at growing all children, even while making some important gains in students reading and doing math on grade-level,” it said.

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