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Rudy Garcia has missed half of 2019 school board meetings

SANTA FE – If a student showed up for school only half the time, he or she would be considered truant.

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Rudy Garcia

Since the beginning of the calendar year, Santa Fe school board member Rudy Garcia, who is also a county commissioner, has made it to exactly half of the 22 meetings and study sessions the school board has held this year, according records provided by the school district.

Tuesday night’s meeting was another one he missed. And his presence was crucial, as a motion not to take closure of three small elementary schools off the table as a means to address the school district’s declining enrollment ended up in a 2-2 tie.

As a result, closing schools is still under consideration and the board will take up the issue again at its next meeting Nov. 6. But as board members noted on Tuesday, even then they are not sure all five board members will be in attendance. Counting Tuesday, Garcia has missed four of the last five school board meetings.

Supporters of the school closings say resources are stretched too thin to support larger schools like those in Garcia’s southern Santa Fe district.

The Journal attempted to contact Garcia the day after the meeting to ask why he wasn’t present. He eventually replied to a text message by saying “Individual s (sic) have situations,” and then followed that text up with another text that said, “Personal life.”

By then, a reporter had sent Garcia a series of questions to two email addresses assigned to him, one he uses for school board business and the other the email account assigned to him as a county commissioner. The reporter texted him again alerting him that questions had been sent via email and asked him to respond. “Yes I will,” he replied.

But he did not reply and did not response to emails and texts on Thursday. His cellphone voice mailbox was full both Wednesday and Thursday.

Garcia, who was appointed to the school board in 2017 to fill a vacancy, is running to retain his school board seat but is unopposed.

Garcia failed to get an endorsement from a teacher’s union this week because he didn’t show up for an interview.

A spokeswoman for NEA-Santa Fe said that Garcia was scheduled to talk at an association meeting but failed to show.

“We had him scheduled on Wednesday to come discuss the questions we had given all the candidates,” Aoife Runyon wrote in an email. “Because we were not able to hear from him, we did not endorse him.”

The association did endorse candidates in the other two school board races, Carmen Linda Gonzales in District 1 and Sarah Kotch Boses in District 2.

Garcia also wasn’t present for a League of Women’s Voters candidate forum Thursday night.

When asked if Garcia’s absences have kept the board from making progress. School board President Kate Noble said, “I don’t think it has impeded the board. I do think that we are a stronger board with five people in the room.”

She noted that the vote on Tuesday was the first time the board was stymied by a tie vote. She also said she thought that Garcia has done “an OK job” keeping up with issues after missing meetings and study sessions.

When running for election to the county commission a year ago, Garcia told the Journal, “I’ll have to play it case by case and see if that happens,” when asked about potential scheduling conflicts between county commission and school board meetings. There was no commission meeting Tuesday.

The school board typically meets at 4:30 p.m. on the first and third Tuesday of each month, while county commission meetings are generally held at 2 p.m. on the second and last Tuesday of each month. School board study sessions, when they are called for, generally are at 6 p.m. on the last Tuesday of the month.

Garcia has made it to one of four school board study sessions held this year. He’s attended 10 of 17 regular school board meetings in 2019. He missed the one special meeting that was held in June on a Monday night, according to the school district.

Garcia, who worked in various positions within county government for nearly 30 years before retiring soon after he won the seat on the county commission in District 3 last November, has a much better attendance record as a county commissioner.

According to the county clerk’s office, he has missed just one meeting in 2019. The clerk’s office does not keep formal records of attendance for other meetings at which business concerning the county is discussed.


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