LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - New Mexico’s governor fired Karen Trujillo from her role as the state’s public education secretary on Monday evening.
In a statement, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she removed Trujillo because her "expectations were not met in a number of areas" when it came to implementing sweeping education reforms.
Trujillo told ABC-7 that her firing came out of the blue and took her by surprise. Trujillo's dismissal comes nearly six months after her appointment as Cabinet secretary for public education.
"I am very, very shocked and surprised. I felt I was leading the Public Education Department in a very positive direction," Trulillo said in a phone interview with ABC-7 on Monday night. (Listen to the entire audio interview by clicking the play button below.)
Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said Trujillo, a former dean and research director at New Mexico State University, declined an initial request to resign and then was “removed" after the governor realized that crucial reforms were not advancing as needed.
“If we’re going to deliver on the moonshot for education that she has called for, and that kids deserve, we had to make an immediate change,” he said.
Trujillo left her job as a Dona Ana county commissioner for the state position when she was appointed in January. She was tapped to carry out the governor’s agenda for education reforms that included a new system for evaluating teacher and school performance, along with a major increase in spending on public schools and at-risk students.
Deputy education secretary Kara Bobroff will serve as interim secretary while a nationwide search is launched to find a successor.
"It is absolutely imperative that we genuinely transform public education in this state. We must identify a vibrant and ambitious new leader for the Public Education Department as quickly as we possibly can," Lujan Grisham said.
A district court ruled last year that the state was failing to provide children an adequate education, especially when it comes to students from poor and minority households.
The state is in the process of deploying a nearly $500 million increase in annual spending on schools under legislation from the Democrat-led Legislature signed in April, and Lujan Grisham embraced the Legislature’s plan to extend learning time for students by as much as five weeks at some elementary schools.
The shakeup Monday evening did not extend to other top managers at the Public Education Department.
“Any concerns about near-term management I think are unfounded because we have really strong deputies in place,” Stelnicki said.