LOS LUNAS — First Judicial District Court Judge Maria Sanchez-Gagne denied the New Mexico Public Education Department’s motion Wednesday morning to reinstate Los Lunas Board of Education Governing Council members Sonya C’Moya and Ragon Espinoza.
In May, Sanchez-Gagne previously ruled in favor of Los Lunas board members Eloy Giron and Bryan Smith in their appeal of NMPED’s Nov. 2021 decision to permanently suspend the entirety of the Los Lunas Board of Education.
Her decision effectively reinstated Giron and Smith to the board, replacing governing council members C’Moya and Espinoza.
Sanchez-Gagne said in her official May ruling that New Mexico state statute under which NMPED used to suspend the board was not contrary to the state constitution. She also concluded the department acted within the scope of its authority and not “fraudulently, arbitrarily or capriciously.”
However, since the secretary of education failed to consult with the New Mexico Public Education Commission, which oversees New Mexico charter schools, prior to issuing the suspicion, as stated in state statute, the judge reinstated the appealing members.
In June, NMPED filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the New Mexico Court of Appeals to reevaluate the decision in favor of Giron and Smith’s appeal of the suspicion.
“Granting the writ is warranted here because the issue presented by this appeal — whether the Secretary may suspend a local school board and under what facts — is an issue of substantial public interest,” the petition reads. “Moreover the district court’s strained interpretation of the Secretary’s decision reflects a failure to apply the differential standard of review required.”
The New Mexico Court of Appeals has yet to issue a writ of certiorari, which would then allow the case to be considered to be heard by the New Mexico Supreme Court.
Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history.