The state education secretary has not made a decision in case


FARMINGTON — The hearing officer who presided over the case by the state education department to revoke Aztec Municipal School District Superintendent Kirk Carpenter's licenses as an educator believes the case should be dismissed.  

Carpenter was accused by the state of failing to report inappropriate contact between a female student and former Aztec High School teacher James Coulter during the 2016-2017 school year, according to a copy of Hearing Officer Muriel McClelland's report obtained by The Daily Times.

The New Mexico Public Education Department served a notice of contemplated action against Carpenter on Sept. 19. He was also accused of failing to "discharge the duties of a superintendent."

Many await the decision

The 17-page report was filed with Public Education Secretary Dr. Karen Trujillo on Feb. 28.

Carpenter told The Daily Times a decision regarding the report by the state education secretary has not been made.

"This was a very important decision for all administrators in the state," Carpenter said. 

He added he appreciated the support from the community, and the district wants to be a part of improving protocols in the system going forward.

A representative for PED could not be reached for comment Friday.

The report is a review of the case levied by the state education department against Carpenter. There were two days of hearings in December.

At the end of the report, McClelland proposes dismissing the notice of contemplated action and the amended notice of contemplated action.

Coulter is accused of two felony counts of criminal sexual contact. The case is pending in Aztec District Court.

The report details how district officials handled the investigation into an alleged relationship between the student and Coulter, including how both the student and the teacher denied the alleged incidents.

It also states Coulter was disciplined with a letter of direction in 2016 to address inappropriate conversations.

The file was closed by Aztec High School Principal Warman Hall on Jan. 25, 2016, on the belief the allegations were "hearsay and unsubstantiated," according to the report.

A PED investigation was launched in May after district officials reported Coulter allegedly sent inappropriate text messages to the female victim of the Dec. 7, 2017, Aztec High School shooting. No sexual contact was alleged in the report.

Coulter allegedly admitted during an interview with PED investigator Jeremy Garcia to having a sexual relationship with another student in 2016 , according to the report. The former teacher resigned on May 20.

The hearing officer noted there were numerous inaccuracies, contradictions and inconsistencies in Garcia's report and testimony.

"The PED investigation was often inaccurate at best, containing many false statements," McClelland wrote in the report.

The report also stated there was insufficient supporting evidence and grounds for the PED's contemplated action of revocation.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at

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