Parents and students of a Santa Teresa charter school met Wednesday evening in protest. Their school, the Health Services Academy off McNutt Road, was shut down last month after the New Mexico Public Education commission found numerous improprieties.
The commission is accusing the founder of the school, Raphael Nevins, of improper spending, fraudulent enrollment numbers, incomplete record keeping and numerous conflicts of interests. Once that was discovered, the board said it got rid of him and all staff involved. But it wasn't enough to keep the school open.
"We are not against the Gasden School District," said HSA parent Juan Acevedo. "We, as parents, just want an alternative for our children."
It's about school choice for Acevedo. It's about having options for his son, a victim of bullying.
"He had been bullied most of his elementary life," Acevedo said. "And we didn't know what to do. So we found out about HSA, and we brought him in, and just the first week, we saw a great improvement."
HSA was the alternative for 200 students who didn't fit in Gasden ISD schools, or kids who wanted an education focused on the medical field. After Nevins and his alleged improprieties came under the scrutiny of the PEC, the board cleaned house, installing a new director and following the recommendations given to it.
"I don't think they truly understand the lack of school choice that they're putting southern Dona Ana County in when they take a charter like this that really has gone above and beyond to address all their concerns," said board member Brian Ormond.
In a 5-4 vote, the PEC shut HSA down, displacing teachers, sending students back to the schools they struggled in, and dashing the hopes of families who had patiently signed up on a growing waiting list.
The board has now hired a legal team, filing an appeal to get their school back. They expect an answer by early fall. It has also applied for a new charter, saying that they're exploring all avenues in the case their appeal is denied.
The PEC was unable to be reached for comment in time for this report.