KUNM

NM Education Officials Pursue School Retention Plan, Drought Forces Ranchers To Scramble For Feed

Apr 24, 2018

New Mexico Education Officials Pursue School Retention PlanThe Associated Press

New Mexico public schools officials are moving forward with a proposal that would require schools to administer improvement and intervention plans and in some cases hold back students who have literacy skills below grade level.

Education Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski is proposing the new rule that focuses on reading proficiency based on a state assessment and would apply to schools teaching students in kindergarten through third grade.

Schools would be required to retain students if they fail to reach reading proficiently following a variety of steps that aim to help struggling students. The proposal would allow some exemptions to retention.

Members of the Legislative Education Study Committee voiced concern about the proposal at their meeting Monday, saying it's similar to legislation that lawmakers have previously rejected.

Drought, Wildfires Force Ranchers To Scramble For FeedThe Associated Press

Ongoing drought and wildfires have cattle ranchers in at least five Southwestern U.S. states scrambling for hay or pastureland, while others are selling off some of their herds.

Extreme drought conditions have contributed to wildfires in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico, delaying the growth of or destroying grass and wheat used to feed cattle in spring.

Rancher Darrel Shepherd of Custer, Oklahoma, says finding hay in northwest Oklahoma is nearly impossible and two wildfires that burned about 545 square miles have destroyed pastures.

Federal agriculture officials in New Mexico say ranchers may not have feed to maintain their herd sizes and that some are already trimming their herds, while farmers along the Rio Grande are bracing for less water to irrigate their crops.

Union For Political Campaigns Expands To New MexicoThe Associated Press

The staff for New Mexico Democratic congressional candidate Debra Haaland has joined an upstart national labor union for election-campaign workers.

The Campaign Workers Guild announced Monday it had secured a union contract with Haaland's campaign that outlines minimum pay, working conditions and benefits for employees. The campaign currently employs four people, with an additional employee on leave for graduate studies.

Launched in February, the Campaign Workers Guild is making inroads into the often high-pressure work environments of election campaigning. It represents workers in 13 political campaigns, including nine congressional campaigns from Pennsylvania to California.

Haaland says she embraced the idea of unionizing when approached by staff members and that it fits with her support for a higher federal minimum wage and paid family leave guarantees.

World War II Navajo Code Talker Dies At 92The Associated Press

A Navajo Code Talker who used his native language to confound the Japanese in World War II has died.

The Navajo Nation says Roy Hawthorne Sr. died Saturday. He was 92.

Hawthorne enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps at 17 and became part of a famed group of Navajos who transmitted hundreds of messages in their language without error.

The code was never broken.

Hawthorne was one of the most visible survivors of the group. He appeared at public events and served as vice president of a group representing the men.

He never considered himself a hero.

Hawthorne later served with the U.S. Army.

He's survived by five children and more than a dozen grandchildren.

A funeral service is scheduled Friday.

Retired Military Leader To Speak To Highlands GraduatesThe Associated Press

The former leader of the New Mexico National Guard is scheduled to give the commencement address to this spring's graduating class at New Mexico Highlands University.

Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Melvyn Montano of Albuquerque will be the speaker for the May 12 commencement ceremony.

A Highlands alumnus, Montano's military career spanned more than four decades. He retired in 1999 as the adjutant general of the New Mexico Guard and was the first Hispanic to achieve this National Guard rank in the continental United States.

Montano says he's honored to speak at the commencement and plans to talk about leadership, ethics and integrity.

Montano also says education was highly valued in his family as his mother was a teacher. He earned a bachelor's and two master's degrees after returning from Vietnam.

US Tribe Marks 150th Anniversary Of Return To HomelandThe Associated Press

It was 150 years ago that Navajo leaders and the U.S. government signed a treaty allowing tribal members to return to their homeland in the American Southwest.

Officials on Tuesday will be announcing a series of commemorative events and plan to address what they call a "legacy of misrepresentation" that stemmed from that era.

Navajo President Russell Begaye says it's myth that the Navajo people were conquered. He says the tribe wants to tell its story of survival and get the textbooks corrected.

The chiefs of the Navajo Nation's three branches of government signed a proclamation earlier this year declaring 2018 as the year of the treaty.

Officials say the commemoration includes the return of the original treaty. It will be on display at the Navajo Nation Museum in June.

After Brief Relief, Forecasts Indicate Drought Will Continue - The Associated Press

Recent showers temporarily relieved drought conditions in parts of the southwestern United States, but dry weather will persist through the summer.

Forecasters said Monday a months-long drought is considered "extreme" from southern California to central Kansas. Conditions are even worse in the Four Corners region and the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles.

"The proverbial spigot shut off," said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. "Drought isn't necessarily a signal for wildfires, but it can exacerbate the conditions that do take place."

The drought has contributed to numerous wildfires. Forecasters say it will last at least through July, with some improvement east of a line from Albuquerque to Denver.

Climatologists consider the months from October to April to be a "recharge" period, with showers and snow replenishing water supplies in the Southern Plains. However, the most recent significant rain in the area came in early October.

"The memory of that precipitation has long went out the back door," Fuchs said. Temperatures have largely been above normal over the same period, triggering evaporation that can carry a lot of moisture away before it has a chance to soak into the ground. There is very little snowpack remaining except on the highest peaks.

The dry air has likely contributed to some weather anomalies: Several towns in western Oklahoma have seen wild temperature swings, and Oklahoma hasn't had a tornado yet this year.

Report: New Mexico Mayor Who Urged Saving Water Using A Lot

A New Mexico mayor who campaigned on reducing water consumption appears to use significantly more water than most of his neighbors.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports documents show that Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber consumes way more water than the average single-family residential customer in the city he now leads.

And according to documents obtained under an open-records request, his water usage is only going up.

During certain months, the water usage at Webber's gated home is more than eight times what the average single-family residential customer in Santa Fe consumes.

Webber and his wife, Frances Diemoz, live in a nearly 5,000-square-foot home valued at nearly $1.15 million.

The mayor says he's taking steps to reduce his water usage.

The report comes as almost half of New Mexico is struggling with extreme drought conditions.

Incumbent Martin Heinrich Raises Most Money In New Mexico Senate Race

New Mexico's incumbent Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate is raising more money than his Republican and Libertarian rivals ahead of the fall general election.

Federal campaign finance reports on Monday show that Sen. Martin Heinrich raised roughly $546,000 during the first three months of the year.

Republican Mick Rich has raised about $123,000 that includes the use of his car for travel.

Libertarian Senate candidate and State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn is a newcomer to the race and says he did not begin fundraising in the first quarter.

None of the three candidates face primary competition.

Heinrich has stockpiled just over $4 million in campaign cash. Rich's campaign has $224,000 in cash on hand.

New Mexico Democrats Elect Corrales Woman As Party Leader

New Mexico Democrats have elected a new party leader, weeks after the previous one resigned over his handling of sexual misconduct claims.

The selection of Corrales resident Marg Elliston came over the weekend.

Elliston will fill out the term left vacant by Richard Ellenberg's resignation in mid-March. Ellenberg had defended a prominent figure in the state's film industry who had been facing sexual misconduct allegations.

The leadership shake-up comes as Democrats are hoping to recapture the governor's seat and flip a closely watched congressional seat in southern New Mexico.

Elliston says she is excited to take on the challenge and promote a progressive platform.

She previously led the Democratic Party of Sandoval County and has volunteered as a lobbyist at the legislature.

New Mexico Court Issues Opinion In Pre-Trial Detention Case

The New Mexico Supreme Court says judges can't deny a defendant pre-trial release just because that person is accused of a crime that would have qualified for capital punishment had the state still allowed for death sentences.

The court in an opinion released Monday said first-degree murder isn't currently a constitutionally defined capital offense that would authorize a judge to categorically deny bail. New Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2009.

The opinion comes in the case of Muhammad Ameer, a suspect in a deadly stabbing and robbery last year in Albuquerque.

Prosecutors sought to keep Ameer in custody under the new rules that stemmed from a voter-approved bail reform amendment.

Instead, the district court ordered detention based on a 1912 constitutional provision providing an exception to the right to bail in capital offenses.

The lower court will now have to determine if Ameer should have been held under the new rules.

New Mexico Nuke Repository Defends Plant Safety Plans

A U.S. Department of Energy official says new procedures in place would have detected a drum filled with radioactive materials that ruptured earlier this month at Idaho's Radioactive Waste Management Complex.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Todd Shrader, manager of Waste Isolation Pilot Plant's Department of Energy field office in Carlsbad, said last week that detection would have happened before the drum left the facility for emplacement at the deep geologic repository in southeast New Mexico.

He says the drum that ruptured due to an exothermic event "not that dissimilar from the one we had here" was in the very beginning stages of characterization.

The U.S. Department of Energy says the 55-gallon (208-liter) barrel ruptured earlier this month at the 890-square-mile (2,305-square-kilometer) site that includes the Idaho National Laboratory, one of the nation's top federal nuclear research labs.

New Television Series To Film In Northern New Mexico

A television series about a teenager who notices strange things in her new foster home will be filmed in northern New Mexico.

"The Unsetttling" starts filming later this month in Santa Fe and Lamy. It's produced by AwesomenessTV.

The series stars Holly Taylor, Tequan Richmond and An-Li Bogan under the direction of Chris Grismer.

The main character is a 16-year-old girl named Becca who can't identify the source of the strange activity.

The series is expected to employ 60 crew members, 10 actors and dozens for background talent in New Mexico.

New Mexico Junior College Staff Get Three Percent Pay Hike

The New Mexico Junior College Board is giving staff members and hourly employees pay increases.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports the board voted last week to give staff members a three percent pay hike and hourly employees a 25 cent an hour spike.

In addition, the board extended NMJC president Kelvin Sharp's contract to June 30, 2021, and increased his salary from $223,000 per year to $229,600 per year.

Dan Hardin, NMJC vice president for finance, says the Hobbs school's finances are in good condition thanks to "conservative budgeting."

Retired Military Leader To Speak To Highlands Graduates

The former leader of the New Mexico National Guard is scheduled to give the commencement address to this spring's graduating class at New Mexico Highlands University.

Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Melvyn Montano of Albuquerque will be the speaker for the May 12 commencement ceremony.

A Highlands alumnus, Montano's military career spanned more than four decades. He retired in 1999 as the adjutant general of the New Mexico Guard and was the first Hispanic to achieve this National Guard rank in the continental United States.

Montano says he's honored to speak at the commencement and plans to talk about leadership, ethics and integrity.

Montano also says education was highly valued in his family as his mother was a teacher. He earned a bachelor's and two master's degrees after returning from Vietnam.