Copyright 2016 Albuquerque Journal
Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)
ESPAÑOLA - Former Española Valley High School boys basketball coach Richard Martinez's name didn't come up during a special meeting on Monday when the schoolboard discussed whether to send a letter of "rebuttal" to the state Public Education Department. But school board president Pablo Luján made it clear after the board voted 3-2 to send the letter that PED's recent decision to take control of the school district's finances was really about the coach.
"It's because of Richard Martinez," Luján said afterward when asked to clarify remarks he made during the meeting about PED "bullying" the school district. "It's because of the Richard Martinez decision that hasn't been made that is continuing to hurt the district."
Martinez, who led the Sun-devils to a state basketball title last season, was fired in April by former Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez, who then resigned under pressure from the school board. But, despite a PED investigation that supported allegations that the coach verbally, mentally, and physically abused students and basketball team members, he was rehired to an administrative position a few months later by the district's new superintendent, Eric V. Martinez, who is no relation to the coach. The former coach now has no direct contact with students.
An appeals hearing challenging the coach's dismissal is scheduled for district court in February.
Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera sent a letter to the Española school board Nov. 17 notifying it she was taking over control of the district's finances. She cited problems such as general ledger information differing from what was reported, improper recordings of expenditures, and incomplete or tardy budget submittals. Some of the problems seem to have occurred over a period of years, but she said in the first sentence of the letter that serious concerns regarding fiscal management and accountability have occurred "over the last six months."
Luján said the public had heard PED's side of the story and the "letter of rebuttal"was one way the school district could tell its side.
"This is one way we can defend some of the accusations," he said.
Myrna Garcia, the district's director of business services, told the board that she and her staff were working on straightening out the district's financial matters when PED stepped in. She said PED was aware that the reason the district was late in submitting its budget for the current year was because during the budget building process the district was without a business manager and superintendent after Gutierrez resigned.
Board member Yolanda Salazar, who along with Ruben Archuleta voted against sending the letter, wanted to make sure her name wasn't signed to it. "I'm 100 percent behind PED. I'm not going to be part of it," she said.
PED sent a separate letter to Superintendent Martinez citing numerous complaints about his actions since he took over in July, saying he had helped foster "a culture of intimidation that has ripple effects through the school population, if not throughout the entire district." That letter refers to incidents involving coach Martinez, as well as procurement and student safety issues.
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