During the Taos Municipal School Board's last regular meeting Feb. 23 before three new members take office, outgoing members Arsenio Córdova and Lorraine Coca-Ruiz made final statements thanking their supporters and attacking The Taos News, among others. Watch Coca-Ruiz' speech and Córdova's speech.
Outgoing District 2 member Enrico Velásquez, who was appointed to the board last May following the resignation of Michael Tórrez, thanked the other board members, Superintendent Rod Weston and others.
He also said education is vital to America's future and emphasized holding students to a high standard so they will be competitive in the global marketplace.
Board member Stella Gallegos said The Taos News has failed to acknowledge the accomplishments of Córdova and Coca-Ruiz. She thanked the outgoing members for their help during her first two years on the board. Córdova began his speech by saying he supports term limits and had always intended to serve on the school board for only one term.
He thanked Coca-Ruiz, Velásquez and Gallegos, as well as former board member Roy Martínez, for having "the vision for the infrastructure for our schools."
He also said he encouraged Gallegos to run two years ago because of her advocacy for students in the district's Special Education program. Córdova was critical of the group Yes! for Kids!, saying he has never seen its members attend board meetings, before speaking to what he said is his "favorite subject," The Taos News and its editorial staff.
"Thank you for making me a cartoon of The Taos News," he said.
Córdova criticized a reporter for spending time at the district's administration building doing research on the schools, also accusing the reporter of racism for reporting the contents of a meal — menudo and iced tea —for which the district reimbursed him.
The story also detailed baggage fees, travel and other costs associated with board members' attendance at a 2009 conference in San Diego.
"The paper is irresponsible," Córdova said.
Córdova challenged The Taos News to "be responsible journalists" and hire more Native American and Hispanic reporters. He closed by saying he will pray for Taos' children, the school board and Yes! for Kids! member Billy Knight.
"We won't invite questions or comments," Coca-Ruiz told the audience before she began with her statements.
Coca-Ruiz said she has striven to "hold the district accountable," making "no excuses" for schools that fail to meet requirements set by No Child Left Behind.
"I promised I would listen to parents," she said, adding that she was committed to working with the community for the good of Taos' youth.
Coca-Ruiz also commented on the attempt to have her recalled and the "accusations of micromanagement" that were leveled against her. She, Córdova and Gallegos, among others, are named as defendants in a pending federal lawsuit filed by district employees who claim retaliation.
"Dishonesty is a culture of the school system," she said.
Coca-Ruiz described the community group Citizens for Quality Education as a "fly-bynight" association, also saying that a "board member" and Taos Mayor Darren Córdova, among others, engaged in "accusations of micromanagement" against her.
Coca-Ruiz said she "will be watching" the current board and chose to close her statement with a quote from President Harry S. Truman: "I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell."