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CCSD school board changes attorneys

Joshua Kellogg
jkellogg@daily-times.com
Superintendent Don Levinski was placed on paid administrative leave by members of the Central Consolidated School District in August.

FARMINGTON — The Central Consolidated School District Board of Education has chosen a new attorney whose duties will include advising the board on the ongoing discharge process for former Superintendent Don Levinski.

Andrew Sanchez, who started in January, said he is awaiting instruction from the board after taking over for the board’s former attorney John Kennedy. Both attorneys work for the Cuddy and McCarthy law firm, which has offices in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

“The board will have to make decisions on how they would like to move forward with new counsel,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez said Kennedy has shifted his work arrangement with the law firm and is working fewer hours. A message left for Kennedy had not been returned late Tuesday.

Levinski remains on paid administrative leave and continues to reside in district housing in Shiprock after three members of the school board voted to remove him from his position during meetings held on Aug. 18 and 24, according to Levinski’s attorney Eleanor K. Bratton.

“I think it’s important for the community to understand Mr. Levinski is still under contract and has not been discharged,” Bratton said. “It appears the common perception is that he has been discharged.”

Levinski’s contract was extended last year to June 30, 2018, with an annual salary of $125,000.

Attempts on Tuesday to contact board Vice President Ruthda Thomas, Secretary Christina J. Aspaas and board members Randy Manning and Adam Begaye were unsuccessful.

When reached by phone on Tuesday, board President Charlie Jones Jr. said he couldn't comment because he was working and didn't have time to talk.

The school board has voted several times on Levinski's removal, starting with an Aug. 18 meeting where Thomas, Aspaas and Manning voted to place Levinski on administrative leave and appoint former Supervisor of Schools Colleen Bowman as interim superintendent.

Jones and Begaye filed a complaint with the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office on Aug. 21 alleging Thomas, Aspaas and Manning had violated the state's open meetings act at the Aug. 18 meeting.

The school board held a second meeting on Aug. 24 to ratify the appointment of Bowman and place Levinski on paid administrative leave.

Thomas, Aspaas and Manning voted during a Nov. 12 meeting to officially discharge Levinski and to deny his request for a due process hearing.

The board members hired a consultant last month to aid in the search for a new superintendent.

During its Jan. 19 meeting, board members approved hiring Dan Patterson — a consultant for the New Mexico School Board Association — to assist in the search for a permanent superintendent.

Patterson said he will meet with the school board on Monday to develop a timeline and process for the superintendent search.

In interviews on Jan. 26 with a Daily Times reporter before a special school board meeting, Jones and Thomas both said the most important quality they look for in a superintendent is dedication to the students.

“The bottom line here is the students. Somebody that has the heart and desire to work for the kids,” Jones said.

Thomas said collaboration between the school board and a new superintendent is key.

“We would like someone that likes to work with the board, all the board, and be able to collaborate, communicate and that’s what we want,” Thomas said.

The board hopes to hire a new superintendent by mid-July, according to Jones.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.