A New Mexico deputy education secretary has resigned. She was only on the job for two weeks. - Albuquerque Journal

A New Mexico deputy education secretary has resigned. She was only on the job for two weeks.

Jacquelyn Archuleta-Staehlin (Source: NM Public Education Department)

After just over two weeks on the job, Jacquelyn Archuleta-Staehlin has stepped down from her position as a deputy secretary in the state Public Education Department — one of the top positions in the agency.

Her resignation — which became effective Thursday, a week after the department announced her appointment — came amid questions about whether she was a good fit for the position and amid other turnover in the department, including its head, Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus.

Archuleta-Staehlin did not respond to a Journal request for comment made to her PED email late Friday evening. In a statement she gave to the department, she said that “after some consideration of my professional goals as well as my personal commitments, I do not believe that my continued employment as a deputy secretary is a good fit for either the department or myself.”

Before joining the PED, Archuleta-Staehlin was a partner at Cuddy & McCarthy LLP, a law firm founded in Santa Fe that says it currently represents the vast majority of New Mexico’s 89 school districts. She focused, according to the department, on “education and disability law.”

Laurel Nesbitt, an attorney with Disability Rights New Mexico, said Archuleta-Staehlin was “always representing the district, not the family, not the child” — a point that made some question her appointment as a deputy secretary who would oversee the state’s action plan on the Yazzie-Martinez consolidated lawsuit.

In 2018, that lawsuit yielded a decision finding that the state had violated the rights of four student groups — including students with disabilities — by not providing them a sufficient education system.

“That was very unexpected news, that she was going to be taking the position in the first place, and was hard to reconcile with our experience with her in the past as such a long-term advocate for districts,” Nesbitt said. “It was surprising to see that she stepped down so early. But it did seem appropriate.”

Amanda Owens, a teacher and a mother of a student with disabilities who’s dealt with Archuleta-Staehlin, was early to question her appointment to the position.

In an email to the Journal sent the day of Archuleta-Staehlin’s appointment, Owens said she “has worked to circumvent the (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)” and that her tactics are “notably antagonistic and retaliatory towards the families of students with disabilities.”

“I think that she tries to intimidate families,” Owens later said in an interview.

Archuleta-Staehlin’s departure comes less than a week after the retirement of Steinhaus — the third public education secretary in four years.

The PED, department spokeswoman Kelly Pearce wrote in an email statement, is in the midst of a national search for new, qualified leadership. In the meantime, Children’s Cabinet Director Mariana Padilla is serving in Steinhaus’s stead.

“While PED is in the midst of leadership changes, all the employees in the department are committed to delivering high quality work for the children of New Mexico regardless of who sits in leadership positions,” Pearce said.


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