The state saw a sharp increase last year in the number of teachers and coaches told they can’t work in New Mexico public schools anymore, according to records News 13 obtained from the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED).
An NMPED investigation shows former Farmington teacher Anna Schroth was one of them after several run-ins with police in 2016.
Police put her in handcuffs after they said she hit her ex-husband with a metal baseball bat.
Before that, she was charged with helping her boyfriend pimp-out a prostitute and dealing drugs. Police said a search of her cell phone showed she was even texting about drugs while she was at school.
Court documents show Schroth got five years of probation after pleading guilty to charges including aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, promoting prostitution and conspiracy to traffic drugs.
NMPED took away Schroth’s license to teach in the state last year, according to education department records. In fact, 2018 saw a surge in teachers and coaches who got in trouble and got their educator’s licenses revoked.
When a News 13 investigation first began digging into this issue a year ago, it found the education department revoked just five licenses in 2016 and 2017 combined.
KRQE News 13 followed up since then to learn that number jumped to 29 last year, according to records the department provided.
“I think it’s actually a good sign,” said Deputy Secretary Gwen Perea Warniment.
News 13 asked what sparked the shift, which happened under the direction of former Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski with the previous administration.
“Yes, definitely there was a shift. So, we’re using kind of just general ability to create spreadsheets and look at things across the board and kind of have a running list of where all case file management is going,” Perea Warniment said.
Apparently, NMPED wasn’t doing that across the board before 2018, according to Perea Warniment.
That’s about the time KRQE News 13 requested public records on the investigations into teachers, coaches and administrators and found many of the case files provided by the education department were incomplete.
In more than two dozen of them, the previous administration couldn’t or wouldn’t say if the investigations were closed, why they were closed or where the public records were to document it.
Perea Warniment said she doesn’t know what NMPED was doing at the time to keep track of the hundreds of cases they investigated or what sparked the change. However, since then, “the collection of data has greatly improved,” she said.
She also talked about wanting to continue to improve access for people who want to issue licensure complaints.
Cases last year that ended with licenses getting revoked include a Cibola High coach accused of fighting with a student and a teacher suspected of cheating on a test at the CNM Workforce Training Center when she was caught trying to hide notes she had written on her wrist.
Most, though, involved teachers and coaches accused of crimes.
Former Las Cruces middle school teacher Michelle Ramsey, for example, pled guilty to embezzlement and agreed to pay back more than $20,000 that investigators said she took while acting as treasurer of the Mayfield High School Band Parents Association.
Ten license revocations in 2018 stemmed from disturbing allegations of sex crimes.
The list includes former assistant track coach with Clovis Christian Schools, Garrett Scott Fly. Court records show he’s on probation after pleading no contest to sending nude photos to a 14-year-old student.
Then there was former fourth grade Matheson Park Elementary School teacher in Albuquerque, Scott Weaver, indicted for inappropriately touching a 16-year-old in a Belen gym locker room. NMPED records show Weaver is among more than two dozen others who won’t be teaching at New Mexico public schools anymore.
The new Education Deputy Secretary said the department is looking into upgrading the technology it uses to keep track of licensure investigations.