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SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Thursday the appointment of an education policy adviser who will be tasked with helping improve K-12 student outcomes in New Mexico and creating easier access to higher education.
The appointment of Scott Groginsky, who previously worked as a special adviser on early childhood issues to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, comes as Lujan Grisham is readying for the start of her second term as governor after winning reelection last month.
The Democratic governor has faced questions about frequent turnover atop the Public Education Department during her first term. Current PED Secretary Kurt Steinhaus is the third person to hold the job since 2019, and several top agency deputies left their jobs this year to take other positions.
Groginsky, who has also worked for the U.S. Department of Education and the National Head Start Association, is married to a Cabinet official in the governor’s administration, Early Childhood Education and Care Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky, a Lujan Grisham spokesman confirmed.
He started his new job in the Governor’s Office in mid-November and will make a salary of $120,000 per year.
The Governor’s Office said Thursday that Groginsky would work alongside Children’s Cabinet Director Mariana Padilla and top PED officials on eduction-related issues, including Lujan Grisham’s push to create universal pre-kindergarten in New Mexico.
In a statement, the Democratic governor said Groginsky would bring experience in “forward-thinking and evidence-based” education policies to New Mexico, which has long struggled with high poverty rates and ranked poorly in national education surveys.
For his part, Groginsky said he was eager to get to work.
“The governor is clear that improving the educational system at all levels is a critical step in lifting up all New Mexico children and families, and I am excited to contribute to the effort of reaching that goal,” he said in a statement.
Since taking office, Lujan Grisham has undone some education policies implemented by her predecessor, Republican ex-Gov. Susana Martinez, including a teacher evaluation system.
But the governor’s administration has faced challenges trying to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic – many New Mexico schools were closed to in-person learning for nearly a year – and comply with a landmark 2018 court ruling.
That ruling found the state was failing to provide an adequate public education to some students, including English language learners, Native American students and children from low-income households.
After the Lujan Grisham administration sought unsuccessfully to have the case dismissed in 2020, the Public Education Department released a draft plan this year intended to address the judge’s findings.