Alam0 Navajo School

The Alamo Navajo School Board will hold a special meeting Thursday at 10 a.m. to discuss the renewal of Andrew Salas’ contract as interim CEO.

The board failed to renew Salas’ contract at its regular meeting last Thursday. The failure to renew Salas contract was a cause of concern, Navajo Nation Department of Dine’ Education Superintendent Tommy Lewis said.

“The CEO (Salas) was very effective and brought stability to the school,” Lewis told The Chieftain. “He was following school policies and ethical rules to make sure the school board stays in compliance with tribal and federal laws.”

Alamo School Board President Hector Guerro said he would also be disappointed if Salas’ contract is not renewed.

“He has done a lot for us,” Guerro said. “We were in danger of having the school retroceded back to the BIE (Bureau of Indian Education). He has helped us change the direction of where we were heading. (Brig.) Gen. Salas has won the respect of a lot of the people in this community.”

Guerro said several residents were at last week’s meeting in support of renewing Salas’ contract.

Guerro said Thursday’s meeting will address the direction the board wanted to take with Salas’ contract, which could include how long Salas wanted to remain at the post, and how long the board wanted him to serve. Salas’ salary could also be discussed.

Guerro said Salas’ contract expires Friday.

Salas, a former adjutant general of the New Mexico National Guard, was not at last week’s meeting. Salas was on leave preparing for a trip to Washington D.C. for military reasons.

Salas was appointed interim CEO following reports hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on travel by school board members. The board was sanctioned by the federal government over an overpayment of $104,000 in travel funds.

Retroceding Alamo Navajo School remains a possibility, Lewis said. The board is still under investigation by the Navajo Nation White Collar Crime Division. He said the investigation will likely wrap up in the next couple of weeks.

Investigators from the White Collar Crime Division interrupted last week’s board meeting. People attending the meeting were kicked out of the school board office.

“The Navajo Nation White Collar Crime Unit is involved in this matter to see if there are any criminal activities,” Lewis said. “They were the ones who showed up at the school last Thursday and everyone was kicked out of the meeting.”

Guerro said documents related to travel by current school board members were taken by investigators. He said the Board’s finance director had records in order.

“We haven’t committed any crimes,” Guerro said. “We have nothing to hide.”

Guerro, Vice President Bucky Apache and Board Member Edward Padilla are subjects of a recall vote.

“The recall petitions have been turned into the Navajo Election Administration to remove three school board members at Alamo Community School,” Lewis said.  “The three individuals have challenged the recall and a hearing is scheduled for them on Sept. 13-14 in Window Rock, Arizona. The Navajo Election Administration should have a decision on the recall shortly after the hearing.”

Lewis suggested breaking off Alamo Navajo School from the rest of the 638 contracts that are all under the Alamo Navajo School Board, Inc.; with the school having its own separate school board, keeping it under tribal control. The board also oversees early childhood education, the health center, the radio station and emergency services on the Alamo Navajo Reservation.

More details will be featured in the Sept. 6 edition of El Defensor Chieftain.