PED PUBLIC INFORMATION POLICY: NO COMMENT

I got kicked out of a Public Education Department staff meeting yesterday by PED spokesman Larry Behrens. “A little aggressive” is how he described my (fruitless) attempt to get an interview with Secretary-Designate Hanna Skandera by showing up and standing patiently in the back of the room with a little smile on my face. 

I know my questions were good because for the first time I got an email response from Larry (the condition of my leaving the meeting) which said “We decline to comment on your questions.”  

Calling someone a liar isn’t nice, and I hate not being nice. But the shoe fits for Larry. He has been lying to me for months, vowing to answer my questions and then blowing me off. If he is not willing to get back to me, he should stop saying that he is.  

Yesterday he said part of the reason I can’t get a response from him, even when he says one is forthcoming, is because he’s “dealing with credentialed journalists.” Larry and I worked in the same building when I was at the Journal, and he knows I got fired from that paper and he probably knows why. 

So I get lied to and dissed by Larry, but that’s fine. (One might hope a taxpayer-funded education official whose job is “public information officer” would be willing to answer reasonable questions from basically anyone, but then one would be discounting how much government work these days is being kept secret from the public.)

What I wonder is whether he’ll get away with lying to the real journalists, because it appears there was never any records request by Jay McCleskey to get that list of teacher emails. No such request shows up on the department’s IPRA log, which includes verbal requests. It sounded a little fishy when Larry said it was mere oversight that he used his personal email account to pass the list along to McCleskey; this newly discovered probable-lie isn’t just fishy, it’s provably untrue. 

Or at least that’s how it looks to us, especially after we found a fascinating email sent to Skandera by one of her deputies, which seems to show that she was the one who asked for the teachers’ emails list. 

Since I’ll never get answers from Larry because I’m not a credentialed journalist, I’ll just put these questions out there for anyone who wants to ask:

ISPAC has an email (received through an IPRA request) that was sent by Paul Aguilar, a deputy at PED, to Skandera that says only “As requested.” The attachment on that email is the list of nonunion teacher email addresses that caused so much controversy over the last month. 

So, did Skandera request the list for Susana PAC director Jay McCleskey? Or did she request it for someone else? 

Larry said, and it has been frequently reported, there was a verbal records request by McCleskey that led to PED staff spending two days compiling the list of teacher emails. 

Why doesn’t that show up on the PED’s IPRA log, which includes verbal requests? 

How much communication goes on between the PED and McCleskey, and does he communicate with Skandera about policy? 

We have an email sent to Hanna Skandera by Paul Aguilar with the list of nonunion teacher emails. It says “as requested.” 

Did Sec-Des Skandera request the list for Jay McCleskey? If not, then for whom?

How often does Skandera communicate with McCleskey? How often do you?

You said McCleskey made a verbal records request. Why doesn’t it show up in the IPRA log?

Who at PED told staff to put together the nonunion teacher email list?  

How many students does the PED anticipate will be in every elementary classroom, on average? 

Thirty-five?! Isn’t that a big problem? 

How is that issue lower on the priority scale than updated teacher evaluations and school grades determined with data no normal person understands? 

Yeah, I’ve got a bug up my butt about class size. But it can’t all be devious, behind-the-scenes, money-centric policy making. Right? 

(Quick aside: My favorite moment from the meeting was when Skandera was talking about SAM schools with the 100-plus employees. “SAM schools,” Skandera said, “which stands for…?” Then, like a teacher, she waited for the answer. A few awkward beats passed with not one person volunteering. “Supplemental Accountability Model,” she said, and then continued. Ugh. Even the PED itself doesn’t know what the hell she’s talking about.)

Years ago, I had the supreme honor of working at the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Albuquerque Tribune until its last day of operation. Our great editor there, Phill Casaus, preached the doctrine of “aggressive journalism.” That was what made us so proud to work there, and it’s the reason the death of that little afternoon daily was such a tragedy. 

So I thank Larry Behrens for the compliment. But he should answer these questions. 

Unless….

Something’s just occurred to me. Here’s one more question to add to the pile: Are you declining to answer these questions because a lawyer told you and Skandera and everyone else involved in this email mess that it’s time to start invoking the fifth amendment so you won’t incriminate yourselves? 

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