Highly Charged Highly Attended School Board Meeting In August Beware of the Ides of March!

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If a School Board President in Alamogordo -"Beware of the Ides of March" (AlamogordoTownNews.com)

The Alamogordo Public Schools Board of Education met in regular session on August 18th, 2021 but the meeting was far from regular.

To begin with there were lots of people in attendance. A rare event in Alamogordo to actually have the lobby full for any government body in regular session.

But the school board meeting did not just have a rambunctious crowd with public comments on masks, that drama was set aside for the real Shakespearian drama that occurred.

Led by Gaius Cassius Longinus( Judy Rabon) and Marcus Junius Brutus (Ryan Sherwood and assisted by Carol Teweleit, they figuratively stabbed Caesar (Angela Cadwallader) in the back and usurped her role as board president.

The  Alamogordo School Board elects a new board president, board vice president and board secretary at the first meeting of the calendar year as standard practice as January is when new members are sworn in if an election year. 

"This is a time to consider a change in leadership, "' Rabon said in the tone of Gaius Cassius Longinus . "  The Alamogordo Public Schools Board Policy Manual states that board's organization occurs at the first regular meeting in January.

"The officers of the Board shall consist of a president, vice president and secretary, all of whom shall hold office for one year or until their successors are elected and have been qualified," the policy states. "For the purpose of organization of the Board, the Board shall at its first regular meeting in January administer the oath of office to newly elected members and elect from its membership a President, vice-president, and secretary." the in-person learning and we're dealing issues that require a very focused concentration on what is best for our students and staff at Alamogordo Public Schools."

Angela Cadwallader wanted to clarify that they could even do that according to the rules, and they brought their lawyer into the conversation on the phone (preplanned) to state that yes they could.

Anthony Torres (attending by phone) voted nay and voiced his opinion that it was very unethical. Torres called the discussion unethical and wanted to table the item.

Rabon was voted in by a three-to-two vote with Cadwallader and Torres being the votes against Rabon being named Alamogordo Public Schools Board President.

The methodology to this change does appear that it had been discussed prior to the meeting and that there was collaboration among the three school board members. That does lead to an ethics question and one for the people of New Mexico and Alamogordo. 

In California and in 28 other states there is  a rule on the books called the Brown Act. That act is a version of the sunshine laws that prevents members of an elected body in having discussions with more than one other member of an elected body in private, so as to not have collusion or an usurping of power without sunshine and public dialog. What one witnessed at the school board meeting on the 18th appears to have been a coordinated and preplanned effort, especially since the attorney was on standby for dialog.

Does the state of New Mexico have a law similar to California's Brown act? New Mexico has sunshine laws in place to ensure transparency. Was this a violation? If not, then maybe the legislature of New Mexico should take a hard look at its sunshine law provisions and tighten the rules around dialog by elected officials in advance of votes or actions. In Californian and most other states with sunshine legislation, elected local and state public bodies cannot allow dialog happen with more than one member of the elected body prior to a meeting and without public visibility of said dialog or written communications. 

Alamogordo's Past Relationship with School Boards....

There was a time in Alamogordo, long before masks were the hot issue, when the public collaborated for excellence. A time that seems long ago, the topics were really about educational enhancement, test scores, college prep, increasing program opportunities for students, industrial arts, where the next house would be built by the building trades high school class, celebrations of academic performance, teachers awards and sports excellence.

There was a time in Alamogordo, when the public was well engaged in education and when the board and elected leaders were held accountable and the community worked collaboratively with the school board and rallied behind the elementary and high schools in all events from academic success to sports and football success. 

During that time frame, academic records were established, the Alamogordo High School Sports teams won many state medals and trophies and there was not the political divisions we see today. Parents actually supported teachers, coaches, the principle and the school board. During that time politics was put aside for the kids and Friday nights and Saturdays the town rallied behind football, cross country, track and field, volleyball and other sports as a unified community.

During that period of time there were school board members that were small business owners and actually served the people and not political ideology. There were superintendent's that served for long tenures and recruited the best school teachers at the highest pay from across the nation. 

When was that time? From 1964 through the mid 1980's. In 1964 the school system ranked in the top 10 in the nation. There were Democrats in Santa Fe and throughout New Mexico and partisan politics did not get in the way of education like it does now. There was not the finger pointing to Santa Fe then as the local school board led the state and the nation, was considered progressive and ahead of its times. Alamogordo schools were respected. Now they rank in the bottom 1/3 in the nation and respect? Not what it once was, across the state, nor across the nation.

The chaotic school board meeting and actions by the board of yesterday further demonstrats why Alamogordo schools rank in the bottom third of the nation, politics. 

Tons of parents showed up for the school board meeting. Why? Was it to celebrate successes and work collaboratively with the community to champion the building trades, a nursing program, academic excellence? No parents were at the meeting to discuss mask mandate and a veterinarian led the public comments on public health. No not a medical doctor but a doctor that cared for cats and dog. Well doesn't that say it all Alamogordo? When the speaker on public health and against state and federal health mandates leading the charge is not a medical doctor but an animal doctor, that explains so much about how Alamogordo fell from top of the nation to the bottom 1/3 in academic excellence.

Votes? A Resolution to Question the New Mexico Department of Education on Mask Mandates:

The resolution requests the New Mexico Public Education Department meet with representatives of all 89 New Mexico school boards for input regarding what is best for each school district instead of a "one-size-fits-all" approach.

"The Alamogordo Public School District Board of Education respectfully requests that the New Mexico Public Education Department support and recognize the local Board of Education's ability and responsibility to decide whether to require that masks be worn at Alamogordo Public Schools facilities, activities, and transportation vehicles, the resolution suggests.

The resolution was approved with three votes in favor of passage, one vote against and one abstention in the vote on the 18th after the new president was seated.

The three school board members who voted for the resolution's passage were Alamogordo Public Schools Board of Education President Judy Rabon, Board Vice President Ryan Sherwood and Board Secretary Carol Teweleit.

Alamogordo Public Schools Board member Angela Cadwallader abstained from the vote claiming she had not been given adequate time to review the resolution and Board Member Anthony Torres voted against the resolution.

Cadwallader said that she did not know about the agenda item until she viewed the agenda when it had been posted. The agenda was posted on Aug. 13 for the public and all members of the elected body to review. School board president Rabon said that she put the item on the agenda.

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