Tucumcari Schools cited for compliance issues

Russell Anglin

The New Mexico Public Education Department cited Tucumcari Public Schools for “major compliance issues” based on an audit of school state funding and enrollment reports.

Other state school districts cited for major compliance issues are Dulce, Santa Fe and Cimarron.

“In addition to minor compliance issues, these districts also may have misidentified special education students, did not follow federal law on the transition of young children from Part C Early Intervention into IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) Part B special education preschool services, showed unusually high rates of ancillary services provided or failed to provide services to children despite receiving dollars for these services from the state,” an education department press release states.

Tucumcari Schools Superintendent Aaron McKinney said the state’s audit findings were not as dire as the education department’s press release may have conveyed.

“The secretary of education called me yesterday personally and talked to me. She said it’s not going to be anything real big. They’re going to come down and help us get back in compliance, go through all of it to make sure … we’re where we need to be,” McKinney said.

McKinney said the findings apply to student records filed two and three years ago.

“All of our numbers from this year were right,” McKinney said. “The new governor wants to see where the moneys are in the state right now. If we’re not compliant with something, we’re more than happy to get that way.”

Tucumcari Special Education Director Teresa Stephenson said she was concerned about the press release’s mention of special education program funding. She said she is trying to find out what the exact problem is.

“I put a call in this morning to ask that we need guidance right now. We just had our child find a couple of weeks ago. We screened about 50 students that are possible for more screening or evaluations to go into our preschool and we want to know what we’re doing wrong so we can correct it if there is something we’re doing wrong, or just know a little more before we evaluate all these students and place them. We want to make sure we’re going to place them right. We don’t quite know yet what it is we’re out of compliance with,” Stephenson said.

Stephenson said the school district has around 200 special education students. She said each student is evaluated on an individual basis to determine what special educational needs he or she may have.

“I know that with all the students we have, there has been some kind of testing done and the committee — because it’s not one person that decides — the IEP (Individual Education Plan) committee decides if they need services or if they don’t need services based on the evaluation,” Stephenson said.

Stephenson said these committees are made up of as few as four or as many as 10 people, depending on which evaluation agencies, like Head Start or Birth to Three, have a hand in deciding what developmental issues a child may have and which adjustments should be made to ensure the child receives a quality education.

Attempts to contact Public Education Department officials have not been successful Thursday.