NM High School Graduation Rate Holds Steady, Four-Day School Schedules On Hold

Feb 23, 2018

New Mexico High School Graduation Rate Holds SteadyThe Associated Press

The percentage of New Mexico students who graduate high school is holding steady at 71 percent.

Public Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski announced new graduation data Friday, saying he was particularly encouraged by the notable leap among Hispanic students over the last several years.

He said the graduation rate for Hispanic students was less than 60 percent in 2011. That continued its upward trajectory in 2017 and now stands at nearly 71 percent.

Ruszkowski said the bar has been raised over the years and that New Mexico's students and families are responding.

The state has long ranked near the bottom when it comes to the number of students who finish high school. New Mexico marked an all-time high after the 2016 school year when it first recorded an overall 71 percent graduation rate.

New Mexico Puts Breaks On Four-Day School SchedulesThe Associated Press

New Mexico is threatening to cut off funding at schools that try and switch to a four-day week as the practice has spread to more than 40 percent of public school districts across the state.

State education officials and lawmakers say it's not clear that students and working families are helped by fewer, longer school days and want to gather more research. States nationwide increasingly are providing flexibility in school scheduling that can open the door to four-day weeks.

New Mexico lawmakers have placed a moratorium on additional four-day school schedules within a budget bill. Republican Gov. Susan Martinez has until March 7 to act on the proposal.

Superintendents in far-flung districts say four-day weeks are key tool for attracting talented teachers to schools with limited financial resources.

Interior Boss Redraws Map Affecting New MexicoThe Associated Press

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has changed a proposed overhaul of his department with a new organizational map that more closely follows state lines instead of the natural boundaries he initially proposed.

The revisions follow complaints from Western state governors that they were not consulted before details of the sweeping overhaul were first revealed last month.

Zinke told The Associated Press on Friday that his goal remains unchanged: decentralizing the Interior Department's bureaucracy and creating 13 regional headquarters.

The redrawn map was obtained by AP and shows that states such as Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming would fall within a single region instead of being split among multiple regions.

Other states remain divided, including California, Nevada, Montana and Oregon.

Interior officials say the changes resulted from discussions with governors, members of Congress and senior Interior staff.

Farmington Police Officers To Boost Presence In SchoolsThe Associated Press

Farmington police is increasing its presence in the city's public schools in the wake of last week's mass shooting at a Florida school.

Farmington Municipal School District officials announced Friday that uniformed officers and even police Chief Steve Hebbe will make unannounced visits to schools.

Officers will walk through the campus and engage with students and faculty.

Police spokeswoman Georgette Allen says the public shouldn't be alarmed if they see several patrol vehicles outside a school. The heightened police presence is in addition to already employed school resource officers.

The plan will last for at least the rest of the school year.

Allen says the idea stemmed from conversations police and district officials had about how to collaborate in light of recent talk about school shootings.

State Auditor Plans Review Of Albuquerque's Route 66 TransitAssociated Press

The state auditor says he's launching a special audit of the planning and funding behind a new Historic Route 66 rapid transit route in Albuquerque.

State Auditor Wayne Johnson's announcement came Thursday, a day after Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller's office confirmed the city's inspector general also had placed the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project under review.

The state auditor and city's inspector general have said they are focusing on funding and contracting related to the project, known as ART.

Both have cited concerns that some federal funding for the project has not materialized, despite assurances from now-former Mayor Richard Berry's administration.

Hobbs Residents Rally Around 'Ten Commandments' MarkerHobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

A group of religious residents in a southeastern New Mexico city is rallying around a Ten Commandments monument on public property.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports the residents crowded a commissioners' meeting this week in Hobbs, New Mexico, to speak out against another group's effort to take down the marker.

The move came after members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation said the Hobbs monument violated the separation of church and state.

The city of Bloomfield, New Mexico, recently removed its Ten Commandments monument following a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Rev. Rodney Warren, pastor of Life Temple United Pentecostal Church in Hobbs, says the monument has been a significant part of the Hobbs community for more than 50 years.

Navajos Settle Utah Voting Rights Case Over Mail-In BallotsAssociated Press

Navajos who once worried they'd have to drive hours to cast their ballots in Utah say a new settlement is a step forward as tribes challenge what they call discriminatory voting practices around the United States.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah said Thursday the settlement that requires tribal-accessible polling places and Navajo-language help is a victory for voting rights after a switch to mail-in voting left behind native voters.

Southern Utah's San Juan County says they're committed to fair elections, but took the steps themselves without the lawsuit that they blasted as a waste of taxpayer money.

The county is also appealing an order to re-draw voting districts that a federal judge found discriminated against native voters.

Similar legal clashes have been waged recently in Nevada, Alaska and the Dakotas.

Las Cruces Student Arrested After Snapchat Photo With RifleAssociated Press

A Las Cruces high school student has been arrested after allegedly posting a photo of himself holding a rifle and referencing school shootings, making it the third threat arrest of a New Mexico teen.

Las Cruces police said Thursday that 18-year-old Ernest Padilla has been booked on one count of unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon on school premises.

Administrators discovered the photo on social media app Snapchat on Wednesday afternoon. An accompanying message stated "Mexican school shooter" along with the abbreviations for "just kidding."

Police found a butterfly knife and brass knuckles on Padilla and recovered a rifle from his home.

Also on Wednesday, a San Juan County teen made a bomb threat and a 16-year-old Belen boy threatened to carry out a school shooting the next day.

KOAT-TV reported three teens charged this week with having guns at Albuquerque High School will remain in custody for now.

Belen Police Take Student Into Custody In School Shooting ThreatAssociated Press

Authorities in Belen say a 16-year-old student is in custody after allegedly threatening to carry out a school shooting at Belen High School, resulting in a two-hour delay of the start of classes Thursday.

Police say the threat was made Wednesday night via social media and that investigators tracked down the student by tracing the social media account.

Police Chief Scott Conner told the Albuquerque Journal that the student said he had no intention of shooting up the school and only made the threat "to see what kind of response he would get from the school and law enforcement."

The Associated Press generally does not publish the identities of juvenile suspects.

Police presence at the school was stepped up Thursday morning.

Belen is 30 miles south of Albuquerque.

Sheriff's Office Says Student Detained In School Bomb ThreatAssociated Press

San Juan County authorities say a 17-year-old Kirtland Central High School student is accused of making a bomb threat against the school.

The Sheriff's Office says the male student was detained Wednesday at a juvenile center on suspicion of a felony charge of making a bomb square.

The office says the threat involved a handwritten note found in a school restroom and that the resulting investigation included interviews and handwriting samples.

According to the office, detectives obtained a confession from the student.

Drought Forces Painful Choices For New Mexico Ranchers - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Some stretches of New Mexico have gone months without meaningful moisture, leaving farmers and ranchers to make difficult decisions as long-term forecasts call for drought to intensify across the already arid state.

Experts with the National Weather Service talked of pitiful snowpack levels in the mountain ranges that feed the state's rivers ahead of the release Thursday of the latest drought map.

The map shows all but a small sliver of southern New Mexico is grappling with some level of dryness, with extreme drought increasing in the northwest corner of the state.

Officials with the federal Farm Service Agency in New Mexico say many ranchers are scrambling to buy up as much alfalfa as they can to supplement feed supplies while others from Cuba to Carrizozo are being forced to cut their herds.

New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Chavez To RetireAssociated Press

New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Edward Chavez will retire next month.

The court announced Thursday that Chavez's retirement will be effective March 9 and that a nominating committee will meet in April to interview applicants and recommend potential candidates to Gov. Susana Martinez.

A Santa Fe native, Chavez was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2003 by then-Gov. Bill Richardson. He graduated from Eastern New Mexico University in 1978 and went on to attend and graduate from the University of New Mexico School of Law.

Chavez previously spent two decades in private practice and served as president of the Legal Aid Society of Albuquerque, chairman of the UNM Mental Health Center and chairman of the Disciplinary Board. He also was an adjunct professor at the UNM School of Law.

Bodies Found In Santa Fe County Connected To Albuquerque CaseSanta Fe New Mexican

Two bodies found in Stanley in southeastern Santa Fe County have now been linked to an investigation in Albuquerque.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office said the victims were male and the bodies were sent to the Office of the Medical Investigator in Albuquerque. The Albuquerque Police Department is taking over the case.

Rancher Fidel Montoya found one of the bodies stuffed into a garbage container along the road near his home Monday. The second body was found miles away also in Stanley.