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Superintendent under fire for Wool Bowl turf removal

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Roswell Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Ann Lynn McIlroy, right, explains before the RISD school board why the old turf from the Wool Bowl was seen at her home and distributed throughout Roswell. Board Secretary Dr. Kathleen Pittman is pictured on the left. (Alison Penn Photo)

Roswell Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Ann Lynn McIlroy will be self-reporting incorrect disposition of old turf from the Wool Bowl, as construction is replacing it with new turf.

All five school board members — President Alan Gedde, Vice President Ruben Sanchez, Secretary Dr. Kathleen Pittman, board members Mona Kirk and James Edwards — were present at the board meeting on Tuesday night. They voted on other business at the meeting that adjourned at 8:35 p.m.

During public comment, Orlando Padilla, who identified himself as a retired educator with 30 years within RISD, asked if there was a request for school board members to approve of the disposal of turf from the Wool Bowl.

Padilla alleged that the old turf had been “distributed throughout Roswell” rather than in compliance with the New Mexico Public Education Department’s Form PED-947 that states, as he said, that materials — which are the property of taxpayers — should go to other schools within the district first and can be disposed of through a public auction with sealed bids if approved by the school board.

“Somehow these rolls of turf were found in the front of the superintendent’s house, the highest-paid employee of the school district,” Padilla said. “Someone sure benefited by having firsthand knowledge of the disposal.

“Also, a formal complaint has been filed with the Department of Education as we asked you to hold your vote on the superintendent’s contract extension until further investigation.”

The board went into executive session at 7:59 p.m. and Gedde announced later in open session that they would not be taking action on the superintendent’s contract or evaluation.

When the fixed asset list was before the board for consideration, McIlroy addressed the turf — as it was on the list.

“My understanding when the decision was made to offer that out to the citizens of Roswell was that we were good to do that,” McIlroy said. “I found out only today that that was not the proper procedure.

“We have contacted both legal counsel. We’ve contacted our auditors. We will be — Mr. (Chad) Cole and I — will be generating a letter and self-reporting that to the state auditor’s office tomorrow. The worst-case scenario for the district is that we get an audit finding next year on our audit.”

McIlroy took “ownership” of the situation and she said the lesson was learned.

Kirk asked if the superintendent consulted Cole, RISD assistant superintendent of finance and operations, or the school’s procurement officer beforehand about the disposition, and who the contractor was.

Kirk also inquired if there was something in the contract for “proper disposal, so this does not happen again, the board’s not put in this position, our district’s not put in this position, so we can learn from this as we move forward.”

To her knowledge, McIlroy said, districts in Lovington, Artesia and Hobbs disposed of their turf the same way and she thought the turf would be considered a “construction material,” not a “fixed asset.” She said a “minimal amount” was removed by the project’s contractor and the rest was distributed throughout Roswell.

As a retired principal and educator, Kirk said she was aware of the appropriate process for disposition of school materials. She said the board needed to be “prudent,” “knowledgeable,” and to do their due diligence to be “transparent” and “keep audit findings off of the board.”

McIlroy said she has had “long conversations” with Cole about how the district will self-report and “ask for corrective actions.” She also suggested that the district’s disposition practices be reviewed and better communicated to ensure “complete compliance in the future.”

In other business, two other public speakers — Francisco Patoni and Pauline Ponce — shared concerns they have about recent administrative restructuring within the district, new administrators not having proper licensure, and the new late-start day on Wednesdays for secondary schools.

Denise Dawson, another public speaker, said the Roswell Educators Association ratified a collective bargaining agreement for the salary schedule approved last month.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.