KUNM

Governor Announces Changes To Teacher Evaluations, NMSU To Consider Tuition Rate Hike

Apr 3, 2017

Governor: Changes Being Made To Teacher Evaluation SystemAssociated Press

After hearing from educators around New Mexico, Gov. Susana Martinez says changes are being made to the state's long-contested teacher evaluation system.

Under the revisions, the number of sick days allowed before teachers are docked on their evaluations will double to six and the weight of student scores will be set at 35 percent rather than half.

Discord has been brewing for years. Teacher unions have challenged the evaluation system in court, as the Martinez administration negotiated unsuccessfully with lawmakers to move the evaluation rules into state statute.

Sick leave became the focus of a veto standoff between the governor and lawmakers during the recent legislative session.

In announcing the changes, Martinez said her administration listened to teachers' concerns. But union officials say the changes represent only small improvements and that the system is still flawed.

Uranium Leaves Legacy Of Contamination For Navajo NationGallup Independent, Associated Press

The U.S. Energy Department's disposal pond for uranium-contaminated groundwater in northwestern New Mexico is just years away from the end of its lifespan.

Federal officials say they will stop pumping because the pond in the Navajo Nation is almost full.

The federal government monitors and pumps groundwater from beneath the Shiprock uranium mill tailings site as part of a long-term project to clean up the area.

Mark Kautsky with the department's Office of Legacy Management recently toured the site near the Arizona-New Mexico state line.

He said the pumping operation has been ongoing for about 15 years.

The Gallup Independent reports the agency will evaporate the pond.

New Mexico's Corn Crop Expected To Grow In 2017The Associated Press

Federal agriculture officials say New Mexico's corn crop is expected to be slightly bigger in 2017.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's statistics service says a survey in March of growers in the state indicate they are planning to plant about 125,000 acres of corn this year. That's enough to cover 195 square miles (505 square kilometers).

Sorghum and cotton planting also is expected to be up this year, but the surveys show the peanut acreage will likely remain the same at 8,000 acres (32 square kilometers).

As for hay, officials say producers in New Mexico intend to harvest about 265,000 acres (1,072 square kilometers) this year. That's down by about 4 percent from 2016.

Above-normal temperatures and little rain plagued much of the eastern half of the state in March.

Agency Enlists New Mexico Schools In Fight Against AbuseThe Associated Press

New Mexico's child welfare agency is reaching out to school administrators and teachers around the state as part of its Pull Together campaign in hopes of curbing child abuse.

Children, Youth and Families Secretary Monique Jacobson has sent letters to 740 schools throughout New Mexico along with packets of information about warning signs, facts sheets on reporting suspected abuse and neglect and posters with contact numbers.

Jacobson said reporting suspected abuse and neglect can sometimes include making tough judgment calls. She wants to make sure teachers and counselors have the necessary tools.

According to state officials, more than 1,110 calls were received from school personnel about possible abuse and neglect in the first two months of the year. More than 730 of those calls were referred for further review. That amounts to nearly a quarter of all the calls received and referred for all of 2016.

A ruling issued by the New Mexico Supreme Court in 2015 clarified a state statute that calls for "every person" to report abuse or neglect, not just those occupations that were spelled out by the law.

Losses From Mine Spill May Be Less Than Feared - By Dan Elliott, Associated Press

The Associated Press has learned that economic damage from a Colorado mine waste spill caused by the Environmental Protection Agency may be far less than originally feared.

Farmers, business owners, residents and others initially said they suffered a staggering $1.2 billion in lost income, property damage and personal injuries from the 2015 spill at the Gold King Mine.

But the total now appears to be about $420 million. A single law firm that originally filed claims totaling $900 million for a handful of New Mexico property owners tells the AP it has lowered their claims to $120 million.

An EPA-led contractor crew inadvertently released 3 million gallons (11.3 million liters) of wastewater tainted with heavy metals from the mine in August 2015, polluting rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

Troubled Santa Fe Art School Won't Accept New StudentsAssociated Press

The future of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design is in doubt after negotiations for the sale of the school to an Asian company broke down.

Interim President Maria Puzziferro is downplaying the option of closing but the for-profit school has decided not to accept any new students for the coming academic year.

The Santa Fe school is owned by Laureate International Universities. The city leases the campus to the university for $2.2 million a year. Laureate had hoped to sell its assets to Raffles Education Corp., but the deal stalled.

The nonprofit Higher Learning Commission postponed approving the transfer of the school to Raffles late last year, leading to a breakdown in negotiations. The Higher Learning Commission accredits colleges and universities in 19 states.

Craig Neal Out As New Mexico Hoops Coach After 4 Seasons - By Glen Rosales, Associated Press

After four years as head coach and 10 overall with New Mexico, Craig Neal and the Lobos have parted ways.

Athletic director Paul Krebs said in a statement late Friday: "The time has come to move Lobo Basketball in a new direction."

The move comes three weeks after Krebs had given Neal a vote of confidence following the Lobos' loss in the Mountain West Conference quarterfinals.

But in the ensuing weeks, four players with eligibility remaining — three of whom were considered starters — announced they're transferring.

Neal joined the New Mexico program as Steve Alford's associate head coach. When Alford left for UCLA, Neal took over.

He led the Lobos to a conference tournament championship and the NCAA Tournament in his first season, before losing in the first round. In each of the subsequent seasons, the Lobos were eliminated from the conference tournament in the first game and didn't make the NCAA or NIT tournaments. Neal finishes with a 76-52 record.

Tuition Rate Hike Considered For New Mexico State UniversityLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

A tuition hike could be coming for New Mexico State University students.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that the New Mexico State University Board of Regents will consider the rate increase Monday.

Officials are proposing a tuition and fee rate hike of up to 6 percent for the Las Cruces campus.

That would increase the cost from about $254 to $269 per credit hour.

A student with a full-time course load of 15 credit hours would pay $196 more per semester.

Chancellor Garrey Carruthers has said the school system needs the bump in anticipation for state budget cuts that are likely.

Autopsy: Oklahoma Man Was Dead Before Being DecapitatedAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

An autopsy reports shows an Oklahoma man found decapitated and mutilated behind an Albuquerque store last December was dead before his head was cut off.

The Albuquerque Journal says the autopsy report was released Friday by the Office of the Medical Investigator.

The report indicates 42-year-old Clifford Miller died from seven stab wounds to his torso, including multiple stab wounds to his back, abdomen and chest.

His body also showed cuts and bruises and multiple smaller wounds.

Miller reportedly moved to Albuquerque for work and became homeless when the work dried up.

He originally was from McAlester, Oklahoma.

Police still are investigating the killing and looking for a suspect in the case.

Bernalillo County Jail Officer Arrested, Accused Of Perjury Associated Press

Bernalillo County Sheriff's officials say a jail corrections officer has been arrested on suspicion of perjury and tampering with public records.

They say Nicole Baca was taken into custody Friday afternoon.

She's been employed by the Metropolitan Detention Center since September 2003.

Sheriff's officials say the arrest stems from a February incident involving inmate Andrew Griego, who became upset and broke a window to his cell with a push broom.

Griego says he was reacting to information Baca allegedly disclosed about him to other inmates that was untruthful and malicious.

He told authorities that Baca is his first cousin.

Baca denied any relation to Griego in written statements to jail staff.

Sheriff's detectives determined the statements, which would be considered public records, were tampered with and Baca turned herself in.

Drought Planning: Water Shortages Expected In New Mexico - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Water managers in nearly every corner of New Mexico are projecting shortages in future drinking and irrigation supplies given expected demand over the next few decades.

Managers in the 16 districts that make up the arid state spent the last three years crunching numbers and analyzing historic data to help create a collection of water plans specific to each region.

The final two plans were recently adopted by the Interstate Stream Commission, setting the stage for a much needed overhaul of the statewide roadmap for navigating the uncertainties of drought.

State Engineer Tom Blaine says revolutionary ideas are needed.

Like elsewhere in the West, New Mexico is recuperating from an unprecedented drought that peaked just a few years ago. Dry conditions are still hampering the eastern plains and other parts following little rain and record-setting temperatures in March.

New Mexico's Corn Crop Expected To Grow In 2017Associated Press

Federal agriculture officials say New Mexico's corn crop is expected to be slightly bigger in 2017.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's statistics service says a survey in March of growers in the state indicate they are planning to plant about 125,000 acres of corn this year. That's enough to cover 195 square miles (505 square kilometers).

Sorghum and cotton planting also is expected to be up this year, but the surveys show the peanut acreage will likely remain the same at 8,000 acres (32 square kilometers).

As for hay, officials say producers in New Mexico intend to harvest about 265,000 acres (1,072 square kilometers) this year. That's down by about 4 percent from 2016.

Above-normal temperatures and little rain plagued much of the eastern half of the state in March.

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