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Grassroots political group’s video blasts RRPS, backs AIMS charter

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — A grassroots political organization has posted a scathing video criticizing Rio Rancho Public Schools for fighting the Albuquerque Institute for Mathematics and Science’s attempts to open a location in the district.

AIMS circulated the video to parents and supporters Thursday, shortly after it was uploaded to Get Real Rio Rancho’s Facebook page.

Kathy Sandoval, AIMS director, said the highly rated charter school was not involved with the video’s production, but she is happy to have the support.

“They made this video because they have just about had enough,” Sandoval said. “I think it (the video) is pretty accurate. They did their research.”

The seven-minute video – titled “RRPS meets its match in fight of the decade” – begins with a dramatic statement written across the screen: “Is it Ok to give up on our kids? Rio Rancho Public Schools thinks so.”

Using brightly colored cartoons, the video reviews the history of the four-year fight between AIMS, “the underdog,” and RRPS, a “mammoth public school system bent on stopping them at any cost.”

Renee Wilkins, GRRR co-founder, told the Journal she hopes viewers will contact elected officials and ask them to take a “very visible, vocal, public stand” against the district’s “bullying campaign.”

“In simple terms, it is really abuse of power, and the weight of this is on our school board since they are ultimately in control,” said Wilkins, a mother of three who helped launch GRRR in 2015.

RRPS spokeswoman Kim Vesely said the real issue is AIMS’ violation of state law.

In 2014, the district sued the New Mexico Public Education Department in Santa Fe’s 1st Judicial District Court over a waiver granted to AIMS, allowing it to expand from the UNM South campus to UNM West – in Rio Rancho’s boundaries – without applying for a new charter.

Typically, charter schools must be reauthorized to open a location outside their original district.

“The only thing we ask and have always asked is that AIMS expand in a manner consistent with state law as established by the Legislature,” Vesely said in an emailed statement.

In May, Judge David K. Thomson ruled in AIMS’ favor, saying PED acted within its authority in granting the waiver. The RRPS board appealed, claiming Thomson’s ruling used “an overbroad interpretation of the scope of the Secretary’s authority.”

The fight is now focused on open meetings law: AIMS argues that RRPS’ lawsuit is moot because the Board of Education did not vote publicly to file it.

RRPS believes a public vote is not required in “matters pertaining to threatened or pending litigation,” Vesely said.

Sandoval vowed to keep pushing until AIMS’ Rio Rancho campus opens its doors.

“This has been four years of my life, and I don’t know how many taxpayer dollars for a lawsuit that doesn’t serve Rio Rancho,” she said.