The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Reactions to Skandera resignation mixed


Area school administrators had mixed reactions to Thursday’s announcement that New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera will step down as of June 20.

“I was shocked,” said Jamie Widner, Melrose Municipal Schools superintendent.

“I sent (Skandera) a text (Thursday) and told her I appreciate her and respect her, but most people that know anything about me, know that I am probably the biggest antagonist that she had.”

Portales Superintendent Johnnie Cain and Clovis Superintendent Jody Balch said they preferred Skandera complete her term and go out when Gov. Susana Martinez leaves office after next year.

“It would have been good if she had stayed,” Cain said. The department will now be in a “state of flux,” he said.”

But Balch said he doesn’t expect any major changes with Skandera’s early exit.

“I don’t think it will have any affect (on operations in education) because the evaluation system is in process and has been. That’s not going to change in a year and a half,” Balch said.

Logan Superintendent Dennis Roch, who is also a state lawmaker, said he is not surprised by Skandera’s leaving.

“It’s not uncommon (to resign early), especially in a two-year term,” Roch said.

“I’m going to guess that she has another opportunity that she has lined up and I wish her the best,” he said.

But like Balch, Roch said he doesn’t expect any changes coming with her departure.

“(We have) the same governor, and the governor is the one who sets the policy,” he said. “Whoever is in (Skandera’s) position isn’t going to change that.”

The evaluation system Balch referred to was implemented in 2011 and has been a source of debate among educators.

“Making student achievement part of the evaluation plan for teachers is pretty misleading because on any given day a student can have a bad day and not do well on a test,” Widner said.

“Some (of Skandera’s) reforms have been good because it’s put a huge spotlight on New Mexico, but I think with her reforms, that maybe it’s been too much too fast.”

Widner said Melrose Municipal Schools and others in the area were operating consistently at a higher level than many other districts in the state and they got “thrown in the same bucket,” meaning changes were unnecessary.

Chris Ruszkowski, deputy secretary of education, has been named acting secretary.

Cain said Ruszkowski will not likely benefit the department or the state’s education.

“He’s new and doesn’t really know New Mexico education,” Cain said. “We’ve got a different demographic and he wouldn’t understand all of the intricacies of education in New Mexico.”

Roch said he plans for Logan schools to keep “moving forward and focus on what’s important: Teaching and learning.”

“Regardless of who is in (any) office,” Roch said, “(I want) every kid to have an opportunity to pursue their post-high school dreams.”


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