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State suspends Floyd school board for alleged health order violations

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SANTA FE — The New Mexico Public Education Department announced Wednesday afternoon that it has suspended the five-member Floyd Municipal Schools board and reinstated the superintendent that the board had placed on administrative leave.

The person who was serving as board president said that legal options are being pursued.

The controversy is over the state department’s COVID-19 Safe Practices. According to the PED, the school board voted twice to disregard the guidelines for school reentry and then placed Superintendent Damon Terry on administrative leave when he refused to carry out the board’s wishes.

Following the order suspending board members Leon Nall, Jeff Essary, Vicki Banister, Charlsea Lee and Ryan Bollema, Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart reinstated Terry.

For now, Terry will report directly to Stewart. Stewart announced his resignation last week and that is effective Aug. 20.

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Stewart may designate supervision to someone else, as he has done in previous cases.

“The PED takes its responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all staff and students incredibly seriously. We cannot put students, staff and their families at unnecessary risk as we continue the fight against the delta variant,” Steward stated in a memo. “By ignoring these basic safety measures, the board impairs the ability of the district to offer safe and uninterrupted in-person learning opportunities,” Stewart stated in a memo.

According to the PED, the Floyd board voted July 26 at a special meeting to make masks and social distancing optional and to disregard state guidelines on indoor air quality, transportation, surveillance testing and other COVID Safe Practices.

Stewart sent board members a memo the next day, advising that their actions were inconsistent with state requirements, which the state contends align with guidance from national health experts. Stewart gave the board until noon Tuesday to rescind its actions or face possible suspension and other consequences.

The board met in special session Monday, voting to uphold its July 26 decision and to disregard the memo from PED.

The district provided contact information for Leon Nall, who was serving as school board president.

“Basically the board was just asking for local control of the school district, and the PED has denied that,” Nall.

Nall said that he and others are pursuing legal options regarding the PED decision.

Floyd Municipal Schools operates an elementary, middle and high school serving about 225 students in all. The district has about 20 teachers and 22 support staff members, along with the superintendent and a principal.

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