PRESS RELEASE - October 16, 2003
New Mexico Public Education Department
300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, NM 87501-2786

Ruth Williams
Public Outreach Director
(505) 476-0393

Public Education Commission Convenes First Meeting

(Albuquerque, NM)—The Public Education Commission, consisting of the 10 elected members of the former New Mexico State Board of Education (SBE), convened its first meeting today in Albuquerque. “Through today’s meeting we are sending the message that the Public Education Commission is a valuable partner in public education and will provide a significant voice for schools,” said Secretary of Public Education–Interim Dr. Alan D. Morgan.

“This commission is very much a part of the future of education in New Mexico,” said Bill Hume, Governor Bill Richardson’s senior policy advisor, in an address to commission members. “The election and debate are behind us. The future of schools is all that’s ahead of us,” he said.

The commission adopted a temporary set of rules of procedure and an open meetings policy as part of its agenda to consider the type of role it will play in public education. Under SB 911, Public Education Transition Period, passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Richardson in 2003, temporary provisions were enacted that prevent the secretary of public education from establishing new policies for public schools without first consulting with the commission, clarifying that the commission serves in an advisory capacity.

The act provides that all references in law to the SBE or to the superintendent of public instruction will mean the secretary of public education and allows the secretary to perform duties and exercise powers provided by law for the superintendent or the SBE. The provisions are effective through June 30, 2004 or until laws are enacted. “The act allows for a smooth transition,” said Secretary-Interim Morgan.

Commission members posed questions during the meeting regarding the transition period. “How can we be sure we’re moving forward and not backward?” asked John A. Darden of Las Cruces. “The continuity is extremely important,” Hume said. Members were encouraged to visit with the governor, both individually and collectively, about what has been done in the past for public education and their recommendations for the future. The governor is considering a meeting in October with the commission.

Members shared the following thoughts on possible new roles as commission members: continue to represent constituents’ interests, advocate for rural and local educational opportunities, have a meaningful responsibility for children’s education, inform the transition process and eliminate duplicate or redundant roles.

At the meeting, members elected temporary officers as follows: Chair, Eleanor B. Ortiz of Santa Fe, vice-chair, John A. Darden of Las Cruces, and secretary, Millie Pogna of Albuquerque.

Work groups are charged with gathering, analyzing and selecting data and information and building upon work that has already been accomplished in order to prepare short-term and long-term recommendations. The recommendations will be prioritized and presented to the Governor.