Hailey Heinz, the Albuquerque Journal’s education reporter, had a front page article today entitled “Future of School“. The article is about online distance learning in New Mexico. A man named Ralph Arellanes, has been given approval to open the New Mexico Virtual Academy within the Farmington Municipal Schools. It will be the first “all virtual” charter school and will use the curriculum from K12, Inc. the private for profit company that contributed $5,000 to Susana Martinez’s campaign. As ISPAC previously covered, Martinez’s education reform bill, SB 427, was written to directly benefit K12, Inc. in a quid pro quo.
ISPAC has uncovered new information that once again raises concerns of serious ethical lapses in the Martinez Administration specifically regarding Patricia Matthews, the Director of Options for Parents, formally the Charter School Division of PED.
It turns out, that Mr. Arellanes under the Richardson Administration attempted to open an online charter school called Sandia Academy. Only his application was denied by the New Mexico Public Education Commission and that denial was upheld upon appeal by then Public Education Secretary Veronica Garcia who deemed the application “inadequate”. Rather than shut the door completely on Arellanes’s application, Garcia “remanded” Sandia Academy’s case back to the PEC stating in a press release that she wanted to afford Sandia Academy “a second opportunity to clarify their positions on some key issues.”
However, Sandia Academy, through it’s attorney, Patricia Matthews notified Garcia that it intended to sue her over it’s charter denial. Yes, the very same Patricia Matthews, who is now the Director of Options for Parents at PED.
Sandia Academy did sue, in Santa Fe District Court, case CV-201000643 and was represented by Patricia Matthews throughout the lawsuit. In September 2010, the court sided with Veronica Garcia and upheld the decision not to give Sandia Academy a charter.
Fast forward to September 2011, Arellanes is now represented by Susan Fox, Matthews law partner. As ISPAC previously documented, Matthews and Fox submitted a name change only (No officer change) to the PRC changing the name of their law firm from Matthews Fox, PC to Charter Law Offices, PC. ISPAC also documented that Matthews referred her partner Susan Fox to a charter school inquiring about legal representation.
Unable to be approved by the state, and with Albuquerque now refusing to charter new schools, Arellanes found a school district willing to charter his new distance learning academy; thus, making an end run around the rulings by the PEC, Veronica Garcia and the First Judicial District Court.
According to emails obtained by ISPAC through an IPRA request to PED Arellanes was unable to make a filing deadline for an application to apply for a federal grant being distributed through PED. Susan Fox asked her partner Patty Matthews for an extension on behalf of their client Arellanes. Patty Matthews did not recuse herself, rather she granted the request for an extension. PED will argue that this was routine. However, plain and simply, Matthews interceded on behalf of a client and her law partner. Nothing routine about that. Thanks to Matthews, her client still has a shot at federal grant money that he otherwise might have lost.
It should also be noted that both Matthews and Fox cc’d Cody Claver, the Vice President of Business Development for K-12 Inc. during the discussions about the grant application. K-12, Inc. has previously been kept out of New Mexico because its programs do not offer enough face time between students and teachers to comport with New Mexico requirements. Thanks to the $5,000 contribution to Martinez and her selection of Arellanes’s attorney as regulator for Arellanes, New Mexicans can rest assure that K-12 Inc.will profit handsomely off of New Mexico taxpayers.
Ironically, under the Richardson Administration, New Mexico had created IDEAL-NM “a state-operated on-line course provider that works with school districts to provide electronic courses (e-courses) to meet the needs of students statewide.” According to Veronica Garcia, the “courses are developed and taught by New Mexico licensed teachers who meet No Child Left Behind (NCLB) guidelines for being highly qualified.” Further, “all courses are aligned with New Mexico Content Standards with Benchmarks.” Under IDEAL-NM, “districts must pay a course fee to IDEAL-NM for students enrolled in the IDEAL-NM courses. The fee is not for course curriculum, but covers the prorated share of a teacher’s salary. Should a district elect to use its own teacher to deliver e-courses, the course curriculum would be free to the district.”
So, if the state already has a progrom–the only reason to include K-12, Inc. is because they gave a campaign contribution to Martinez.
See the emails below.