PED Secretary Hanna Skandera resigns
KOB.com Web Staff with Associated Press
June 09, 2017 07:03 AM
SANTA FE, N.M. -- New Mexico Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera is stepping down, and educators have been responding to Thursday's announcement.
Skandera is resigning effective June 20 and is planning a more formal announcement later Thursday, a spokesperson said.
Skandera has been on the job about seven years. KOB asked her Thursday why she decided to resign, but she didn't give a direct answer.
"We finished a good school year, a special session," she said. "It's a great moment to say we've got incredible leadership across our state, in this department. I've got a confidence and a humble place of excitement for our state and where we're headed."
Skandera often clashed with Democrats and teachers unions over various reforms pushed by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. Senate Democrats for years held up for appointment in committee although she ran the department as a designate.
Under Skandera, the Public Education Department introduced a new teacher evaluation system and standardized tests with tougher requirements.
In a statement, Gov. Susana Martinez supported Skandera's work.
"New Mexico’s students and schools are better off today because of Secretary Skandera’s leadership and dedication," Martinez said in the statement. "Since day one of my administration, she’s been relentlessly committed to helping us fight the status quo – like teachers unions and other entrenched special interests – to reform education and give our students, teachers, parents and schools more of what they need to succeed. Now, more New Mexico students are graduating from high school than ever before, more are at grade level in reading and math, and more New Mexico kids are college ready. I’m so grateful for all Hanna has done for New Mexico’s kids, and I wish her all the best."
The governor's office said that Deputy Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski will serve as acting cabinet secretary. According to the statement, Ruszkowski worked as a middle school social studies teacher and served for nearly six years at the Delaware Department of Education under former Democratic Governor Jack Markell prior to his service in New Mexico.
Education groups and professional educators reacted to the resignation throughout the day.
KOB's Morgan Aguilar spoke with Ellen Bernstein, President of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation union and Charles Goodmacher, spokesperson of the National Education Association of New Mexico.
Both are hopeful about what this means for the future of public education in New Mexico.
"We hope that it creates more opportunities for all the parties to work together and for the teacher voice to be heard," said Goodmacher.
Still, Goodmacher isn't sure Skandera's resignation will change anything for students and teachers until after the November 2018 election.
"I'm sure that policies and direction of her administration will continue as long as Governor Martinez is in office," Goodmacher said.
One of Skandera’s biggest moves was imposing a new way to evaluate teachers and grade schools based on standardized tests.
"The teacher evaluation system and imposing it through a rule rather than working through the legislature with all the parties to come to an agreement on it, that was major," Goodmacher said. "That really changed the big picture in a big way in New Mexico for teachers.
With Martinez on her way out, Skandera is leaving just over one year shy of her full 8-year term.
"We didn't know that she was getting ready to resign," Bernstein said. "And we're all very surprised by it, and we're hopeful that this sets a new direction for the state. I think it's a chance for Susana Martinez to start making new decisions about her direction for public education."
American Federation of Teachers New Mexico President Stephanie Ly released the following statement regarding Skandera's announcement:
The resignation of New Mexico Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera is welcome news for New Mexico’s educators.
While we recognize this is an opportunity to reset the course New Mexico’s public education has taken under Governor Martinez and Secretary Skandera, and we sincerely hope her replacement is willing to meaningfully include stakeholder input and work towards strengthening education as a profession, recognizing that a strong system of public education is the foundation of a successful society.
On Governor Martinez and Secretary Skandera’s watch in New Mexico, our State slid from 37th to 49th in the nation in the quality of our public education, was subjected to relentless attacks on public schools in favor of charter and private schools, had to fight against voucher schemes raiding public school funding, fought mandatory flunking of our students based on standardized testing, was subjected to abusive levels of over-testing of our students, and faced the institution of the nation’s most punitive evaluation system which has contributed to historic shortages of educators and students studying to enter the field of education.
Whomever is named as the new Secretary of Education in New Mexico, they will have to quickly use their position to advocate for New Mexico’s public schools to avoid millions of dollars of cuts under President Trump’s proposed budget, potentially further harming an already fragile and underfunded system in New Mexico. We are ready to work together with a new Secretary, and are calling on Governor Martinez to name a replacement with deep and meaningful education experience who is equally ready to work with educators, parents, communities, and other stakeholders in an honest and productive way, prioritizes New Mexico students and educators.
The Vice Chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico and special education teacher Neomi Martinez Parra released the following statement:
This is good news for New Mexico kids and teachers. As an educator and a parent, I know New Mexico’s education system has taken a hit under the Republican education agenda—our state is dead last in education, teachers don’t have support and are leaving the profession, and parents are tired of excessive testing.
Though this is a positive development, we must not forget that it was the Republican Governor’s policies that continue to take away the opportunity of a quality education from our children—it will take years to recover.
We urge the Martinez-Sanchez administration to change course and work with Democrats to improve education, support our educators, and make New Mexico a great place to raise a family."
The New Mexico president of the National Education Association Betty Patterson also released a statement:
During her six-plus years in office, Secretary Skandera established a new "status quo" for education policy and direction in New Mexico: tarnishing the enormous value of local teachers and other school employees who work tirelessly to increase student academic and life success. She began her tenure in New Mexico with a relatively open and collaborative manner, seeking out the teacher voice, but turned to imposing her ideas on New Mexico’s students when New Mexico’s local school leaders and educators disagreed with the ideas she brought from Florida and education corporations and their so-called "think tanks."
The teacher evaluation system she imposed, based on excessive standardized student tests, was a difficult decision which brought hardships and caused many teachers to leave the state and the profession. Her failure to work well with the community of front-line educators, led to the diminishing of opportunities for student success. Some very bad public policy decisions were implemented through administrative rules created by the Public Education Department.
If Skandera had worked collaboratively with our unions, the only elected "voice" of teachers and other school employees, parent organizations and others, she would leave with a positive legacy. We kept the success of our students at the center of all we’ve done in the classroom and in our policy debates during Secretary Skandera’s time as Education Secretary, and we will keep doing so with whomever is next in that office. New Mexico will continue to improve because we each want what is best for our students and our state and for many of us this is not a 7 year assignment but a life-long goal.
KOB will update this story as it develops.
KOB.com Web Staff with Associated Press
Updated: June 09, 2017 07:03 AM
Created: June 08, 2017 07:01 AM
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