NM Weighs Options As Online Schools Falter, Unit Closes At Coal-Fired Power Plant

Dec 19, 2017

New Mexico Weighs Options As Online Schools FalterThe Associated Press

A new study shows that online schools in New Mexico provide lower academic achievement than classroom-based schools even though they enroll fewer at-risk students from impoverished and non-English speaking families.

The analysis by two New Mexico legislative agencies was presented Tuesday to a panel of state lawmakers. It reviews student academic results, school finances and governance at the three virtual charter schools in the state where students receive all their instruction online rather than in classrooms.

The study finds that student performance lags at e-schools and that there are far fewer instructors and counselors per student. Half of public funding of virtual charter schools went to out-of-state, for-profit companies.

The Public Education Commission has voted not to renew the charter at New Mexico Connections Academy because of numerous academic shortcomings.

Flipping The Switch: Unit Closes At Coal-Fired Power PlantThe Associated Press

The first of two units to be shut down at a coal-fired power plant that has served customers throughout the American Southwest for decades is no longer in operation.

Officials with New Mexico's largest electric utility say Unit 3 at the San Juan Generating Station was switched off just after midnight and the other unit will be turned off this weekend as Public Service Co. of New Mexico looks to meet a federally-mandated deadline.

It's part of an agreement with state and federal regulators and other stakeholders to reduce haze-causing pollution in the Four Corners region, where New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah meet.

The rest of the San Juan plant could close as early as 2022 while another coal-fired plant in neighboring Arizona is scheduled to close in 2019.

Former Veterinarian Barred From Interacting With AnimalsThe Associated Press

A former veterinarian was sentenced to jail and barred from having contact with animals for the next 10 years after authorities say they found 48 dogs living in inhumane conditions in her home.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports 53-year-old Debra Clopton was sentenced to four years in jail on Monday following her conviction last year of animal cruelty and practicing veterinary medicine without a license.

The Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office began an investigation in 2013 after complaints of incessant barking at Clopton's Edgewood home.

Authorities say the stench of feces and urine was overwhelming when law enforcement officers raided her home.

Authorities say the dogs were crowded into kennels and many were sick. Several dogs had to be euthanized.

Clopton lost her veterinary license in 2012.

Transgender Intern: Rep. Lujan Grisham Sent 'Fake' LetterThe Associated Press

A transgender former intern says an apology letter from her to Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico is a fake.

Riley Del Rey told The Associated Press on Tuesday she never wrote the letter and Lujan Grisham's office is circulating the bogus letter to divert attention from claims the congresswoman fired her because she is transgender.

According to the letter released by Lujan Grisham's office, Del Rey apologized for "unprofessional and unacceptable behavior" and for "shame" she brought to the congresswoman's office.

Del Rey says she never wrote the letter nor signed anything like it despite pressure from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.

Del Rey says she's filing a new ethics complaint against Lujan Grisham over the letter.

Lujan Grisham's office declined to comment on Del Rey's latest allegation.

Student In Hobbs High School Shooting Hoax May Face ChargesAssociated Press, Hobbs News-Sun

A Hobbs High School student may face charges after authorities say he used a school computer to spread a hoax about a pending school shooting.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports the student, whose name hasn't been released, recently was disciplined for creating the hoax days after a gunman killed two students at Aztec High School.

Officials say disciplinary measures were also taken against two other Hobbs students who used their cell phones to photograph the computer screen hoax and then circulated it on their Snapchat social media accounts.

Rumors of the Hobbs High School shooting sparked around 200 parents to pick up their students early last week.

Hobbs High School Principal Zeke Kaney says officials take all threats seriously.

Pam Grier, Cybill Shepherd To Appear At Las Cruces Film Fest Associated Press

Pam Grier, the star of gritty 1970s Blaxploitation movies like "Foxy Brown" and "Coffy," is scheduled to be a guest at the 2018 Las Cruces International Film Festival.

Grier will join Cybill Shepherd, star of the television series "Moonlighting," at the film festival which begins March 7.

Grier and Shepherd will be on hand for a screening of "Rose." Both have roles in the film.

The movie follows Shepherd, who plays a recently disabled and widowed former police officer, facing a life threatening illness. She decides to go on a solo road trip in a motorized wheelchair through New Mexico.

The screening kicks off the third year of the five-day festival that brings thousands to Las Cruces.

New Mexico Won't Renew Charter At Largest Online School Associated Press

New Mexico education authorities are cutting off authorization and funding for the largest online charter school in the state in response to lagging academic performance among students.

A request by New Mexico Connections Academy to renew its charter for the coming school year has been voted down by the Public Education Commission that oversees charter schools across the state. The Santa Fe-based virtual charter school provides online lessons to more than 1,300 students across the state in grades 4-12.

The New Mexico Department of Education says that student proficiency rates in math dropped to 11 percent in 2017 and has given the school's overall performance an "F'' grade for two consecutive years. The agency opposed renewal of the school's charter.

Representatives for New Mexico Connections Academy could not be reached Monday for comment. The school contracts with the for-profit education curriculum provider Connections Education, owned by parent company Pearson.

The school has the right to appeal the Public Education Commission's decision to the Secretary of Education. It also could seek to reorganize under the authority of a local school district.

Broken Water Line Causes A Water Outage In Las Cruces Area Associated Press

Authorities in Las Cruces say residents and businesses in the area of Calico Drive, Agave Lane, Cypress Court and Village Drive are experiencing an emergency water outage.

They say the outage is expected to last until about 6 p.m. Monday for repairs to a broken water line.

Once water service is restored, residents may notice discolored water due to iron and manganese.

Although the water is safe to drink, city officials recommend waiting to wash laundry until after the water becomes clear.

Las Cruces officials say the water discoloration should disappear within 24 hours.

If it does not, residents should flush outside and/or cold-water faucets in the house for five minutes.

If the discoloration remains, residents can call the city for assistance.

Aztec High Schools Return To Class After Deadly Shooting Associated Press

Students of a New Mexico high school are back in class more than a week after a deadly shooting on campus.

Aztec High School students and staff returned Monday and were greeted by residents of this small northwestern New Mexico community who lined the streets to welcome them.

Casey Jordan Marquez and 17-year-old Francisco "Paco" Fernandez were killed on Dec. 7 when a gunman disguised as a student opened fire inside Aztec High School.

Police say the gunman later killed himself.

School officials say students began the day on Monday with an all-school assembly.

The school will be back on a regular schedule Tuesday and Wednesday.

New Mexico Lawmakers To Grapple With Child Care Funding Associated Press, Albuquerque Journal

In the new year, New Mexico lawmakers will have to decide whether to put more money into a program that provides child care for low-income families or whether the funds would be better spent elsewhere.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Monique Jacobson, secretary of the state Children, Youth and Families Department, is asking the Legislature to approve an extra $25 million next year for child care assistance. That's a 16 percent increase, to about $134 million a year.

Lawmakers will meet in a 30-day session starting Jan. 16 to craft a budget to send to Gov. Susana Martinez. The state is expected to have nearly $6.3 billion to spend on basic operations next year, or $199 million more than current spending levels.

The debate comes as New Mexico ramps up spending on a variety of early childhood programs and evaluates their effectiveness.

New Mexico City Manager Faces Sexual Misconduct Allegations Associated Press

A city manager of a small southeastern New Mexico community is facing accusations of sexual harassment in one of the latest cases of sexual misconduct allegations against men across the U.S.

At least two women say Bob Gallagher, a city manager of the city of Jal, sent them crude text messages and asked for sex, KOB-TV in Albuquerque reports. Jal is a community of about 2,000 people near New Mexico's border with Texas.

Dadrianne White told the station that Gallagher repeatedly sent her lewd text messages for two years and demanded to see photos of her. White said Gallagher once told her that she "owed him" for helping her get out of jail.

Gallagher threatened to send her back to jail if she didn't have sex with him, White said.

Asked about the allegations, Gallagher said he "was not aware" of making a threat to have her sent back to jail if she did not have sex with him.

He later told KOB-TV the text messages to White were "a joke."

Another female employee says Gallagher asked for sex at a motel room during an out-of-town training session. The Jal City Council later suspended Gallagher for that social media private message.

Lawmakers New Mexico and Colorado began revising their sexual misconduct policies last week, joining other legislatures that are facing questions about whether they are doing enough to deter predatory behavior and protect victims.

Majority Democrats in the New Mexico Senate on Saturday ousted one of their members — Sen. Michael Padilla — from a leadership post amid controversy over past sexual harassment allegations.

The second-term lawmaker from Albuquerque's South Valley, once a rising figure, withdrew this month from the lieutenant governor's race amid mounting concern over decade-old allegations that he harassed women at a prior job. Padilla has long denied the allegations dating from when he headed Albuquerque's 911 call center.

When he was sued about the accusations, Padilla did not answer questions about whether he had been accused of sexual harassment at previous jobs.

A group of women are circulating a petition demanding that Padilla resign his senate seat.