Ft. Sumner superintendent admits to mistake

By Darrell Todd Maurina

FORT SUMNER — The superintendent of the Fort Sumner Municipal School District took responsibility Monday for failing to administer two state-required tests to students in grades four and eight.

Superintendent Lecil Richards said on Saturday he believed the schools had administered one of the two tests, but told the school board Monday that his investigation determined that school officials administered the older Terra Nova test, not the one required by the state.

“It was an oversight on my part,” Richards said. “It wasn’t that I was trying to hurt our children or pull a fast one on the state, it was that the order form came to me and I did not order it.”

New Mexico’s Public Education Department issued a press release on Friday stating Fort Sumner school officials could have their educational licenses suspended or revoked as a result of the mix-up.

Richards said he will write a letter to the state explaining the situation.

“There shouldn’t be any consequences for the district, I think,” he said. “I hope our students will not be penalized due to my oversight.”

Board president Nick Cortese also read a letter from a local resident, Brenda Crocker, who said the district had gone beyond the call of duty in providing special education for one of her children who had been injured in a car crash.

“What do you really wish for a child’s education?” Crocker wrote. “What most of the state offers, one questionable test a year, and ungrounded, unfeeling, often criminal adults? Or well- and thoroughly educated and supported children?”
Board member Joe Felty said he didn’t understand why the state didn’t check earlier to make sure Fort Sumner had ordered the tests.

“It’s as much their fault as ours,” Felty said.

Richards told the board that while another school employee, Mary Ann Cortese, was responsible for administering the tests, it was his responsibility as superintendent to order the tests.

He said Mary Ann Cortese — through no fault of her own — was unaware the new tests were supposed to be administered.

In a letter to state education officials, Mary Ann Cortese wrote she was “distraught to realize a state-mandated instrument was not administered” and that the mistake was “entirely unintentional.”

Contacted following the meeting, Richards said other employees should not be blamed for his actions.

“I feel like I am directly responsible and accountable for all phases of our students education,” he said. “I feel like accountability is a must to be a model for our leaders of tomorrow.”