Teacher Evaluations Roil Governor's Race, Graduation Rates At UNM Improve Over Last 8 Years

Aug 3, 2018

Teacher Evaluations Roil Gubernatorial Race In New MexicoAssociated Press

Republican gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Congressman Steve Pearce has said that New Mexico's future teacher evaluation system could end up looking similar to the current one if he is elected.

New Mexico's Democratic Party on Thursday released a video of comments by Pearce to a conference of educators in which the GOP candidate describes his proposal to suspend and replace the teacher evaluation system with input from stakeholders.

Pearce says some teachers see positive aspects in the current evaluations and that "we may use almost exactly the same evaluation system."

Democratic Party Chairwoman Marg Elliston accuses Pearce of supporting failed policies of outgoing Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

Both Pearce and Democratic rival Michelle Lujan Grisham have promised to overhaul teacher evaluations that they regard as ineffective if elected governor.

Graduation Rates At UNM Improve Over The Past 8 Years- Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The graduation rate at the University of New Mexico has more than doubled in the past eight years.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Thursday that in 2010, about 13 percent of University of New Mexico students earned their degree within four years.

Today, a third of students reach that milestone in that time.

Heather Mechler, director of UNM's Office of Institutional Analytics, says the university's five-year graduation rate reached 47 percent by the end of the spring semester.

The six-year rate rose to 50 percent.

Numbers for the three graduation rates are expected to grow with summer degree additions.

Mechler says final numbers should be available later this month.

New Mexico Lawmaker Vows Not To Resign Amid Misconduct Probe – Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A New Mexico state lawmaker who recently lost in the Democratic primary amid a sexual harassment investigation says he won't resign.

And State Rep. Carl Trujillo says he may even run for office again.

The Nambé Democrat told the Albuquerque Journal this week he plans to finish his term, which ends this year, and will continue to fight the case against him.

Investigators said last week there is credible evidence Trujillo sexually harassed a lobbyist on two separate occasions.

A bipartisan subcommittee is planning on holding an open hearing on the matter before a larger panel of legislators.

That committee could then recommend disciplinary action against Trujillo to the full Legislative Ethics Committee.

State Trooper Accused Of Giving Drugs To Females Resigns- Associated Press

Authorities say a New Mexico State Police officer accused of trying to give methamphetamine to a woman and marijuana to a 16-year-old girl has resigned ahead of a hearing over his employment on the force.

A state police spokeswoman says 33-year-old Daniel Capehart resigned Friday in a letter to state police. The agency's chief will seek to have him barred from being an officer in New Mexico, with a report submitted to the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board.

Defense attorney Amy Sirignano has said Capehart was trying to develop sources to fight drug trafficking.

A criminal complaint alleges Capehart abused his position as a law enforcement officer by stealing drugs seized during arrests and giving them to females with whom he was interested in pursuing romantic or sexual relationships.

FBI Offers $1,000 Reward In 2017 Stabbing Death- Associated Press

The FBI says it's offering a reward for information that will lead to an arrest and conviction in a Navajo Nation stabbing death last year.

In a statement Thursday, FBI spokesman Frank Fisher said the agency was offering the $1,000 reward nearly a year after 32-year-old Donnie Wade Barney was killed in Rehoboth, New Mexico.

Authorities say Barney was found stabbed to death on Aug. 19, 2017, inside a hogan, a traditional home made of logs and earth.

The agency's tip line for the case is 505-889-1300.

The Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety is also an investigating agency in the case.

Albuquerque Man Sought In Kidnapping Of Placitas Businessman- Associated Press

Authorities are seeking a 39-year-old Albuquerque man in the July 26 kidnapping of a Placitas businessman who was freed after being held for ransom.

The FBI says an arrest warrant charges Jose Ramirez with kidnapping, carjacking and other crimes and that the FBI is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Ramirez.

Media outlets reported that the 69-year-old victim was attacked by two men at his home at gunpoint as he left for work and then driven blindfolded to a dirt-floor shed where his abductors held him.

It's not clear if a wire transfer for the bulk of a $10,000 ransom went through before the man was released late on the evening of the same day he was abducted.

New Mexico Gambling Revenues Up After SlideSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

New Mexico Lottery ticket sales jumped nearly 6 percent in the 2018 fiscal year as the lottery bounced back from its worst year since 2001.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports New Mexico Lottery CEO David Barden said Wednesday the uptick in the fiscal year that ended June 30 was largely due to increases in ticket sales for numbers games like Powerball and Mega Millions.

The state's horse-racing tracks also reported a nearly 2 percent increase in winnings from their slot machines in fiscal year 2018, bringing an end to a two-year skid in slot revenues.

The lottery and racetrack results for the fiscal year mean more money for state government to fund education and other services.

The lottery returned $40.2 million for college assistance for qualifying students, up from $37.8 million in 2017.

PR Specialist To Lead New Mexico Open Government GroupAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A public relations specialist who used to work as a journalist has been selected as the next executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Melanie Majors was recently selected to lead the advocacy group that pushes transparency in open government.

The 63-year-old Majors was a member of the foundation's board of directors, but stepped down in April to lead FOG as the interim director. She became the permanent director on Wednesday.

Majors began her career as a print journalist for the Grants Daily Beacon and then working at KOB-TV. Most recently, Majors owned and operated The Majors Company, which is a public relations firm, and she is an adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico.

More Than 2,000 Books Destroyed By Rain At Santa Fe LibraryKOB-TV, Associated Press

Authorities say more than 2,000 books at a Santa Fe library have been destroyed by water from recent monsoon storms.

La Farge Branch Library Director Kathryn Spangle told KOB-TV that a roof leak also soaked the library's carpet and wooden shelves.

She says the flood caused about $37,000 worth of damage.

Spangle says New Mexico Congressman Ben Ray Lujan is trying to replace the books through the Library of Congress Surplus Books Program.

The library will remain closed until it can pass an air quality test and all damages are repaired.

Officials hope to have it open by the time the school year begins on Aug. 14.

Auto Group Accused Of Deceptive Practices To Sell To NavajosBy Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press

The Federal Trade Commission is accusing an auto group in the Southwest of using deceptive and unlawful practices to sell vehicles to Navajos.

The complaint against Tate's Auto Group was filed this week in U.S. District Court in Arizona.

It alleges the company has falsified consumers' monthly income and down payments on financing applications and contracts without them knowing. The complaint also alleges deceptive advertising.

The FTC is asking for relief that includes restitution and refunds to customers.

The auto group denies the allegations. Owner Richard Berry says the company is honest with customers and is confident it will be vindicated in court.

The complaint is part of a push by the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission to protect Navajo consumers.

Border Patrol Agents Rescue 71-Year-Old Hiker In New MexicoAssociated Press

U.S. Border Patrol agents say they have rescued a 71-year-old man who was lost and dehydrated on a hike east of Alamogordo.

Agents from the Alamogordo Station say the man had been hiking in the Indian Wells Canyon on Monday.

After a 90-minute search, an agent found the missing man under a bush and say he was dehydrated and unable to walk.

The man was provided water and the agent stayed with him until additional help arrived from the Otero County Sheriff's Office.

The man then was taken by helicopter to a facility in Las Cruces for treatment.

His name hasn't been released.

Rains Leave River Covered In Ash, Wildfire DebrisSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Recent rains have sent ashes and debris to a northeastern New Mexico river that supplies water to about 1,000 people, making it impossible for residents to draw water from it.

Monsoon rains swept up ashes and debris from the burn scar from a spring wildfire at Ute Park and sent it into the Cimarron River's currents.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Wednesday that the Cimarron River provided water for much of Colfax County including the Village of Cimarron, Springer and Raton.

Crews are working to clean up muck in the river's reservoir.

With river blackened, the reservoir is all the community has.

Donors have helped buy bottled water for the community.

Lack Of New Mexico Say In Nuclear Waste Project Draws IreHobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

The chair of a New Mexico legislative committee that monitors radioactive materials says it's "troubling" that Attorney General Hector Balderas has concluded the state cannot legally stop the building a nuclear waste storage facility.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports Sen. Jeff Steinborn said Wednesday the state should have a say about a project of this magnitude.

Balderas said in a letter last month the state cannot legally stop Holtec International from temporarily storing up to 100,000 metric tons of high-level nuclear waste in New Mexico.

Holtec International, a New Jersey-based company specializing in nuclear storage, has applied to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license to construct a nuclear waste storage facility about 35 miles east of Carlsbad.

State Still In Drought Despite Monsoon RainsAlbuquerque Journal

The recent monsoon rains have brought some relief to New Mexico, but not enough to ease the ongoing drought.

The Albuquerque Journal reported the New Mexico Drought Monitoring Working Group said rains have been helpful over the last 30 days, but most of the state is still in some stage of drought.

A new drought map released Thursday shows the northern part of the state and the Four Corners area are in exceptional drought and east-central New Mexico is in extreme drought.

Royce Fontenot, senior hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, said the recent monsoon rains have not yet made up for a long period with little or no rain or snow.