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New Mexico governor removes public education secretary

July 23, 2019 GMT
FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2019, file photo, then New Mexico State University dean and research director Karen Trujillo of Las Cruces, middle, speaks as she is announced as the new as the new Public Education Department Secretary at a news conference in Santa Fe, N.M. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has removed the head of the state's Public Education Department while expressing dissatisfaction with efforts to implement sweeping education reforms. Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said Monday, July 22, that Trujillo had been dismissed nearly six months after her appointment as Cabinet secretary for public education. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2019, file photo, then New Mexico State University dean and research director Karen Trujillo of Las Cruces, middle, speaks as she is announced as the new as the new Public Education Department Secretary at a news conference in Santa Fe, N.M. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has removed the head of the state's Public Education Department while expressing dissatisfaction with efforts to implement sweeping education reforms. Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said Monday, July 22, that Trujillo had been dismissed nearly six months after her appointment as Cabinet secretary for public education. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee, File)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham removed the head of the state’s Public Education Department on Monday while expressing dissatisfaction with progress on sweeping reforms.

Karen Trujillo was dismissed as public education secretary about six months after being tapped by the first-year Democratic governor to overhaul the state’s lagging public education system.

“Unfortunately my expectations were not met in a number of areas,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “It’s absolutely imperative that we genuinely transform public education in this state.”

A district court judge last year sided with frustrated parents and school districts in ruling that the state was failing to provide an adequate education, especially to students from impoverished and minority households.

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The state is in the process of deploying a nearly $500 million increase in annual spending on schools under legislation from the Democrat-led Legislature signed in April.

Reforms backed by Lujan Grisham include the replacement of the state’s performance evaluation systems for teachers and individual school ratings. She embraced the Legislature’s plan to extend learning time for students by as much as five weeks at some elementary schools.

Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said the governor realized that crucial reforms were not advancing as needed.

“If we’re going to deliver on the moonshot for education that she has called for, and that kids deserve, we had to make an immediate change,” he said.

He said Trujillo, a former dean and research director at New Mexico State University, declined an initial request to resign and then was “removed.”

The shakeup Monday did not extend to other top managers at the Public Education Department.

“Any concerns about near-term management I think are unfounded because we have really strong deputies in place,” Stelnicki said.

A nationwide search is being launched to find a successor.

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