Complaints and concerns have come to a head at the Magdalena Municipal School District culminating in a citizens’ petition to recall the election of two Board members; Chad Perkins and Sharon Harris. Both were elected in February, 2015.
On Wednesday, May 30, Magdalena residents Sam Olney and Cleo L. Mow filed petitions with the Seventh District Court Clerk requesting to begin the recall process in the form of a petition.
Seventh District Judge Matthew Reynolds on Monday denied the motion, citing clerical mistakes and other problems with the filing.
Reynolds found that the petition itself “is insufficient to trigger a court hearing pursuant to the Local School Board Member Recall Act.”
He wrote that the petitioners had not filed an application with the Socorro County Clerk requesting a hearing “for a determination by the court of whether sufficient facts exist to allow the petition to continue with the recall process.”
In addition, before filing with the county clerk, the petitioners are required to submit affidavits “setting forth specific facts in support of the charges specified on the face sheet.”
Reynolds also noted a reference to “signatories being registered voters in Rio Arriba County.”
The Seventh District Clerk’s office informed the Chieftain that once corrections had been made and then properly processed through the Socorro County Clerk, the petition could be refiled.
The petitions allege that the board members in question are guilty of malfeasance or misfeasance while in office, and have violated several rules governing activities and Code of Conduct of school board members. One petition claims Harris violated an instance of School Board Powers and Responsibilities and broke six Board Member Ethics rules. In the other petition Perkins was alleged to have violated one instance of School Powers and Responsibilities and broke three Board Member Ethics rules.
The basis of the petitions fall under the state statute regulating Election Code Contests. Section 14 of Article 12 in the New Mexico Constitution allows such a recall.
“Any elected local school board member is subject to recall by the voters of the school district from which elected. A petition for a recall election must cite grounds of malfeasance or misfeasance in office or violation of the oath of office by the member concerned. The recall petition shall be signed by registered voters not less in number than thirty-three and one-third percent of those who voted for the office at the last preceding election at which the office was voted upon. Procedures for filing petitions and for determining validity of signatures shall be as provided by law. If at the special election a majority of the votes cast on the question of recall are in favor thereof, the local school board member is recalled from office and the vacancy shall be filled as provided by law.”
About 154 signatures would be needed for the court to proceed with the recall.
In another matter, the Magdalena Board of Education held an emergency session Wednesday, May 31, the purpose of which was to discuss hiring an interim superintendent. This would be in addition to the sitting Superintendent, Vannetta Perry, who was reinstated from being on paid administrative leave for several weeks. School Principal Leslie Clark had been interim Superintendent during Perry’s absence.
After the executive session the board voted to start looking for another interim superintendent.
Harris – who serves as school board president — said Superintendent Perry needed help in the transition to incoming Superintendent Glenn Haven, who is expected to start settling in prior to the end of the month.
“They will be helping Dr. Perry,” Harris said.
Handbook defines duties
The School Board Member Handbook published by the New Mexico School Board Association, outlines duties and responsibilities of a school board member:
1. Attends all meetings of the board.
2. Is legally a board member only when the board of education is in session. No one person, unless authorized, should speak on behalf of the board.
3. Recognizes his responsibility is not to run the schools, but to see that they are run well by others.
4. Is well acquainted with school policies.
5. Voices opinions frankly in board meetings and votes for what is in the best interest for the children of the district.
6. is flexible and realizes there are times when changes must be made, when tradition cannot be honored, and when pressure must be ignored.
7. Remembers that board business, at times, requires confidentiality, especially in processes involving personnel, legal matters, and land acquisition.
8. Is interested in obtaining facts, but remembers that the administration has the responsibility of operating the schools, not spending a great deal of time gathering data or making reports to the individual board member.
9. Knows that the reputation of the entire school district is reflected in his/her behavior and attitude.
10. Is able to sift fact from fiction, to sort out rumors from realism, and to know the difference.
11. Refers, as far as possible, all complaints and requests to the appropriate administrative officer.
12. maintains harmonious relations with other board members when harmonious relations are consistent with his/her obligations to the schools.
13. Uses good ethical and moral judgment in all decisions that he/she makes.