Second PED employee says she raised concerns about Trujillo

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Colleagues of Charles Trujillo’s verbally warned Public Education Department supervisors on five separate occasions – and as early as the summer of 2014  — about their suspicions, a Public Education Department (PED) employee said Wednesday.

For Susan Benavidez, the alarms went off as Trujillo collected hard-to-get education licenses while heading up the agency’s bureau responsible for licensing the state’s teachers and administrators.

Benavidez, the second PED employee to come forward, on Wednesday corroborated  fellow PED employee Michelle Lewis’ account that she voiced concerns to PED supervisors about Trujillo “well over a year ago.”

Benavidez, who worked in the PED’s licensure bureau from March 2014 until last month, sat in on many meetings in which Lewis verbally warned PED officials, she told New Mexico In Depth during a phone interview. According to Benavidez, Lewis shared those concerns with Trujillo’s successor as chief of the Licensure Bureau, that person’s successor in the bureau chief job, PED’s ethics manager and the deputy director of PED’s Educator Quality Division, which oversees the Licensure Bureau

“I too voiced concerns about his licenses,” Benavidez wrote in a text prior to speaking with New Mexico In Depth on the phone. The warnings she and Lewis conveyed to superiors fell on “deaf ears,” Benavidez wrote.

“For management to put us under the thumb for every little thing and then to see managers do this, it doesn’t make sense,” Benavidez told New Mexico In Depth.

Agency spokesman Robert McEntyre did not immediately respond to Benavidez’s assertions Wednesday, but on Tuesday, he told news media the agency had no written record of Lewis’ complaints.

Lewis and Benavidez’s assertions that they repeatedly warned agency officials only to go unheeded call into question the state agency’s ability to investigate itself as it attempts to uncover how Trujillo was able to earn so many licenses through questionable methods.

More specifically, they raise questions as to how Trujillo’s license applications were handled internally.For instance, who approves an applications for a license when the chief of the Licensure Bureau is the one applying?  They also cast doubt about the strength of the agency’s safeguards and processes to protect against fraud.  As an example, whether or not there is  a requirement to double check the authenticity of documents supporting applications.

Trujillo  “agreed to surrender his educational licenses” after the state agency initiated a process to suspend them, McEntyre confirmed Tuesday in an e-mail.

According to a Sunday story in the Las Vegas Optic, Trujillo faked credentials to earn an administrative license he later used to land a $100,000-a-year job as superintendent at the Mora County Independent School District.

Lewis told New Mexico In Depth on Tuesday that her suspicions of Trujillo were raised when he obtained several educational licenses in a short time at the bureau.

Trujillo came into the job as chief at the PED’s licensure bureau around 2012 with an expired level 1 counseling license, Lewis said.

The Las Vegas Optic reported Sunday that “after being hired by PED and taking over as the licensure bureau chief, Trujillo obtained four licenses from the agency, all of them dated July 1, 2013 and running through June 30, 2022.”

“Besides his administrative license,” according to the Optic, “Charles Trujillo was granted: a level Three-A instructional leader pre K-12 specialty area license with endorsement in social studies, physical education and health; a level three pre K-12 school counselor license; and a level three 7-12 athletic coach license.”

Each of those licenses would have required Trujillo to serve an internship for a year per state regulation, Lewis said.

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