NM Department of Education Forcing Out the Administrator of the Most Highly Ranked School in NM

After founding Moreno Valley High School in the fall of 2002, in the spring of 2004 I had discovered that I would not be allowed to continue as head of school because of a new law that required that charter school administrator’s be licensed.  When I had arrived in New Mexico to create the school, Gary Johnson had been governor and non-traditional school administrators were allowed.  But upon being elected governor in 2003, Bill Richardson immediately rewarded the public school establishment by requiring that all charter school administrators hold a traditional administrator’s license.  In order even to enter such a program I would have had to have had seven years’ experience as a licensed public school teacher.  I had zero years such experience, despite the fact I had been working in K-12 education for fifteen years at that point, mostly in private schools.

Below is my appeal for a waiver that would allow me to continue as administrator, and their brief reply.  I left full-time work in education that May and will not return to work for a government school again.  I have moved to Galt’s Gulch.

Our AP results for the 2003-2004 academic year, my last year as director, placed MVHS as the 143rd best public high school in the U.S. on Newsweek’s Challenge Index.  The next year, after I left, MVHS was ranked the 36th best public high school in the U.S.  (Here is the press release from Governor Richardson’s office bragging about it.)  While it remained highly ranked, it gradually dropped from there, and in 2011 was ranked #409 (still the top-ranked school in NM).  For a more detailed account of MVHS, see “A Tale of Two Charter Schools.”

At the time Veronica Garcia was the NM Secretary of Education, James Ball was the Assistant Secretary of Educator Quality, the person directly in charge of licensure issues.

—–Original Message—–
From: Michael Strong [mailto:socraticpractice@yahoo.com]
Sent: Thursday, March 11, 2004 12:33 PM
To: jball@sde.state.nm.usvgarcia@sde.state.nm.us
Subject: Charter School Administrator Qualifications

Dear Dr. Ball and Dr. Garcia,

I understand and share your commitment to improving education in New Mexico.

Given that commitment, I am inquiring to discover if there is any
alternative licensure path for administrators or if it is possible to
grandfather me in as a licensed administrator prior to fall 2004.

I am currently the director of Moreno Valley High School (MVHS), a charter
high school in Angel Fire.  I do not have standard administrative licensure
and thus, under my current understanding of HB 212, would not be eligible to continue in my position in the fall of 2004.

When I was hired as the administrator for the charter school in spring of
2002, my understanding was that charter schools were free to hire
non-traditional school administrators.  The MVHS charter, our legally
binding contract with the Cimarron District, specifies that the MVHS
Governing Council will establish the qualifications for the school

As you know, the New Mexico legislature created the state’s charter school
law in order to promote the establishment of  independent, innovative
schools.  They recognized this would require more local autonomy, and
enshrined that idea in their law.  It now appears this key element of
charter school law is being superceded.  The PED’s new interpretation of HB
212 runs contrary to the original legislative intent of the state’s charter
school law, and will reduce its effectiveness in serving the state’s

My qualifications as a school administrator:

*    Newsweek magazine will probably rank MVHS as one of the top 200
public schools in the nation in their annual summer issue listing the top
public schools in the nation because of our AP enrollment.

*    The charter school I have created has the highest percentage of
students enrolled in AP courses of any public school in the state.

*    AP New Mexico and MVHS have scheduled a joint summer training so
that my faculty and I can train teachers from across the U.S. in our
uniquely effective pre-AP and AP techniques.

*    Our SAT gains are more than double the national average.

*    I am the author of the leading book on Socratic Seminars in public
school classrooms.

*    My work as an educator has been endorsed by

*    1995 National Teacher of the Year Elaine Griffin

*    MacArthur Genius Award winning educator Deborah Meier

*    David Perkins, Harvard professor of education and a leading expert on cognitive growth.

*    Grant Wiggins, a leading expert on authentic assessment

*    Geoffrey Caine and Renate Nummela Caine, leading experts in
brain-based learning

*    My book has been published in Spanish and I have provided consulting
for schools and universities in Chile.

*    I have provided workshops and consulting services for leading
national educational organizations, including Phi Delta Kappa, the National
Paideia Center, and hundreds of schools across America.

*    I have ten years administrative experience in private schools.

*    I have been the founding administrator for a private school and a
charter school.

I expect that in the eyes of most reasonable citizens, this background
should qualify me to direct a school.  I would make the case that it is in
the best interest of the citizens of New Mexico that I be allowed to
continue as the administrator of a public school.

Can the Public Education Department of the State of New Mexico provide a
reasonable means by which I may continue in my present position as
administrator for Moreno Valley High School?

Thank you for your consideration.


Michael Strong
Moreno Valley High School
POB 1037
Angel Fire, NM 87710

There is no provision in state law that excludes teachers or administrators in charter schools from educator licensure requirements.

James Ball
for Secretary Garcia

—–Original Message—–
From: Garcia, Veronica
Sent: Thursday, March 11, 2004 5:10 PM
To: Ball, James
Subject: FW: Charter School Administrator Qualifications

Pls respond for both of us

About Michael Strong

Co-founder, Ko School + Incubator, Conscious Capitalism, Radical Social Entrepreneurs, lead author of Be the Solution: How Entrepreneurs and Conscious Capitalists Can Solve All the World's Problems, author of The Habit of Thought: From Socratic Seminars to Socratic Practice.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to NM Department of Education Forcing Out the Administrator of the Most Highly Ranked School in NM

  1. Pingback: How to Make Learning Almost as Much Fun as Sex – So that Teenagers LOVE Doing It! | The Purpose of Education

  2. Pingback: If We Had a Way to Increase IQ and Develop the Prefrontal Cortex of Inner City Youth Would We Implement It? | The Purpose of Education

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s