Second day of hearings wrap up in Farmington

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FARMINGTON — Aztec Municipal School District Superintendent Kirk Carpenter has denied allegations levied by the state education department that he failed to report alleged sexual misconduct incidents involving a teacher as it seeks to revoke his licenses as an educator.

A second day of hearings was held Wednesday in the boardroom in the Farmington Municipal School District's central office on North Dustin Avenue regarding Carpenter's appeal of a decision by the New Mexico Public Education Department to try and revoke his educators' licenses. The first day of hearings was held on Dec. 12.

Multiple witnesses were called to testify during the day-long hearing as they answered questions from Carpenter's Albuquerque-based attorney, Dina Holcomb, and Phillip Gloudemans, a prosecutor for the state education department, in front of a hearing officer.

Christopher Eide, director of educator quality at the New Mexico Public Education Department, testified that a notice of contemplated action was filed against Carpenter as a result of failure to report inappropriate actions between a teacher and a student at Aztec High School in 2016.

Holcomb and Gloudemans declined to provide copies of the notice of contemplated action to The Daily Times following the hearing.

Former Aztec High School teacher James Coulter has been charged with two second-degree felony counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor, according to court records. Coulter also was charged with two felony counts of criminal sexual penetration, but those charges have been dismissed, according to court records.

Coulter was investigated by New Mexico State Police after state education department officials turned up evidence of an alleged illegal sexual relationship between him and a student, according to a state police press release.

The Albuquerque Journal reported documents from the state education department showed Coulter was accused of alleged inappropriate text messages between him and the female victim of the Dec. 7, 2017, Aztec High School shooting. Coulter denied there was any physical relationship between him and the girl, the Journal reports.

Carpenter testified the text messages were "inappropriate," and Coulter was placed on administrative leave on April 27, the day after the district received the phone with the text messages on them.

He also stated Coulter submitted his resignation on May 4.

During the hearing, Carpenter stated allegations levied against Coulter in 2016 for alleged sexual misconduct were determined to be unsubstantiated by the district following an investigation.

But the Albuquerque Journal reported a state education department investigation determined that sexual misconduct had taken place in that time frame.

The testimony of witnesses throughout today's hearing covered many topics. Those included how Aztec schools and the state education department conducted their investigations into the allegations against Coulter and if district officials had a duty to report the 2016 allegations to the state education department even if the district determined they were unfounded.

The boardroom was filled with superintendents from across the state who attended the hearing in support of Carpenter. Ann McIlroy, superintendent of the Roswell Independent School District, described Carpenter as one of the best educators she has worked with.

"I'm here today to support him and let him know that we stand with him and that we believe in him and have a real, severe problem with the allegations levied against him," McIlroy said.

McIlroy added the allegations against Carpenter could call into question the integrity of every administrative decision made by superintendents when handling the reporting of alleged sexual misconduct incidents.

The hearing officer announced at the end of the hearing she plans to make her decision on the matter by Feb. 25.

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

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