This letter is a follow up to an Editor Letter printed in the Farmington Daily Times under the guest columnist section on April 27. The previous letter was in regards to my strong disagreement with the

contract extension and salary increase approved by the majority of Central Consolidated School District board members for Superintendent Donald Levinski. I outlined three major poor job performance and a misconduct concerns, which were only examples of a number of such job deficiencies.

This letter demonstrates the continued pattern of Mr. Tso to defend and protect the superintendent, despite documented contrary evidence. This letter stems from a meeting of the Health, Education, and, Human Services Committee (HEHS) of the Navajo Nation on April 30. At this meeting Mr. Tso and Mr. Scott Nicholay, community relations coordinator, provided a report to the Navajo Nation Council delegates serving on the HEHS Committee updating the construction of a new Naschitti Elementary School. The conversation then turned to having HEHS members question the concern about vacant teacher positions and continued deficiencies with the Navajo\cultural programs reported in the April 27 column. Following are very questionable statements given by Mr. Tso and Mr. Nicholay in responding to such questions and it should be noted that the quotes are taken from a video recording of the meeting.

Quotes of Mr. Tso:

• When asked about concerns regarding vacant teacher positions and use of substitutes, Mr. Tso responded "...the board member, he takes inaccurate information." Mr. Tso misleads the HEHS members, in that, the information presented in the April 27 column comes directly from CCSD web site information on vacant teacher positions throughout the 2013-2014 school year. The decrease in the graduation rate for 2013, comes from the N.M. Public Education Report dated February 2014. The misleading statement of Mr. Tso and Mr. Levinski to the Navajo representatives comes from their own submitted letters. It is very disturbing that Mr. Tso will try to "defend the indefensible," jeopardizing his own integrity and credibility, as well as continuing to mislead public officials, in this case, council delegates, especially when he is a Navajo Nation employee.

• Mr. Tso further states "The number of substitute teachers have actually gone down tremendously. ... so for the most part most of our schools are fully staffed."

On March 15 the CCSD website showed 17 elementary, five middle, and 10 high schools vacancies for a total of 32 teacher vacancies. This was six weeks prior to the April 30 report to the HEHS Committee, that means that in that time period CCSD had to have filled all 32 positions, which is very doubtful. In spite of his misleading claims, the fact remains that 40 to 45 percent of CCSD students were provided a sub-standard education for the majority of the 2013-2014 school year, due to the inability of CCSD administrators to recruit certified teachers. "As for our turnover in our district, when we compare ourselves to ... neighboring school districts -- Gallup, Bloomfield, Aztec, and Farmington -- and our district has the second lowest turnover compared to many of these other districts."

This statement has also been made by Mr. Levinski, but, when reviewing the website throughout the 2013-2014 school year, for the most part, it showed a higher vacancy number for teachers at CCSD. As mentioned above, on March 15 the CCSD website showed 32 teacher vacancies and on that same date the websites for Farmington, Bloomfield, and Aztec showed no teacher vacancies. It should be noted that the Farmington district has to fill about 750 teacher positions and CCSD has about 480 teacher positions, and therefore, Farmington was able to fill a much higher number of positions, while CCSD failed to fill a much lower teacher number.

• When questioned about the adverse status of the Navajo language and cultural programs, Mr. Tso stated, "One of the efforts ... also is complying in the spirit of the New Mexico Indian Education Act ... this impacts the education of a lot of Navajo students." He furthers states, "The district is trying to build capacity by building a curriculum aligned to the Navajo Nation five content standards."

Mr. Tso validates the poor performance of Mr. Levinski in failing to develop a comprehensive Navajo language and cultural curriculum and the needed data for analyzing program effectiveness. As pointed out in the April 27 column, this deficiency is very concerning in that CCSD has received millions of dollars of combined federal, state, and Navajo Nation funds. With the CCSD student population being about 90 percent Navajo, this should be a CCSD priority in that, as Mr. Tso acknowledges, it impacts the education of a lot of Navajo students. This deficiency of an effective cultural program continues to exist despite Mr. Levinski completing his third school year as superintendent.

• One of the brief comments made by Mr. Nicholay was when he stated, "The (April 27 column) did not derive from presentation to the board and official district information, it was coming from the teacher union ... so there is a political agenda behind it."

The Central Consolidated Education Association (CCEA) which is the teachers' union has no control of what the HR Department posts on the CCSD website, what reports are provided by the state Public Education Department or what kind of written statements were given by Mr. Tso and Mr. Levinski in misleading state officials.

As an elected public official on the CCSD School Board, it is my duty to my constituents to make them aware of the obvious collusion between Mr. Tso, Mr. Levinski, Mr. Nicholay, and other board members. Such political collusion is proving to be detrimental to the education of our children and a disservice to our communities. It has resulted in creating low morale among CCSD employees and is the primary reason for the inability of CCSD to recruit and retain certified teachers.

 

Hoskie Benally Jr. is a CCSD School Board member.