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Española superintendent fires coach, then quits

In a turn of events that could only be authored in Española, the school district’s superintendent fired Española Valley High School head boys basketball coach Richard Martinez on Wednesday afternoon – and then the superintendent resigned a few hours later.

It was not immediately clear if Bobbie Gutierrez’s termination of Martinez would remain on the books, given her own situation.

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Bobbie Gutierrez (Journal File)

The Journal was able to confirm that Martinez was fired by Gutierrez midafternoon Wednesday. But by sundown, Gutierrez – who has been under duress from the community because of her handling of the Martinez situation – tendered her resignation to the Española Public Schools board of directors some four hours later.

That resignation was to go into effect May 6, but the board, by a 3-2 vote, decided to place Gutierrez on leave effective immediately and appoint an interim superintendent.

Text messages to Martinez were not returned late Wednesday night. Efforts to reach Gutierrez, who became acting superintendent a year ago, for comment were unsuccessful. Myra Martinez will be Española’s interim superintendent.

Gutierrez had been under fire for putting Martinez, Española Valley High’s very successful but often controversial head coach, on leave 10 days after Martinez led the Sundevils to the Class 5A state championship.

At a school board meeting Wednesday night, over a dozen people voiced their support of Martinez to the board, board president Pablo Lujan said.

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Richard Martinez celebrates Espanola Valley\’s first state championship in The Pit in 2011. (Journal/Greg Sorber)

Lujan said Martinez is entitled to due process that is afforded to any school district employee who has been dismissed.

The district put Martinez on leave pending the outcome of an investigation into “accusations” against the volatile coach, who has led the high school to a pair of state titles in his tenure with the Sundevils.

Martinez said he was put on leave for leading a team prayer at the Pit during last month’s state tournament. But his disciplinary methods for players on the team also reportedly came under scrutiny by the district.

Martinez, who also taught physical education at Española Valley, had been fired once before, in March 2012, also just after that year’s state tournament. But he was given his job back a few days later.

Two years ago, he was placed on paid leave by the school for allegedly bullying his athletes and slapping a female student. That suspension also lasted only a few days.

Martinez coached at Española Valley since the 2003 season.

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