Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Utilities, Regulators, and Us

Thinking about El Paso Electric, it helps to step back and contemplate the situation of electrical utilities generally.

These utilities are granted a monopoly on a valuable commodity, they're regulated by the states. Most function under somewhat backward laws that enable them to profit only by buying or building things, which often pressures them to solve problems in otherwise unnecessarily inefficient and (for us) expensive ways.

Facing environmental concerns and new alternative forms of energy, the utility companies will soon enter their death spiral. [Industry term, not mine.] Costs of solar panels have declined 75% decline in just the past six years. Most states have “net metering” laws letting solar-powered households sell excess electricity back to the grid at retail prices. Arguably, utilities are selling saddles and surreys just when horseless carriages are getting reliable.

Even if you doubt that all the poisons we're putting in our atmosphere and water will really hurt anything, why would you want to stick with gas-fired electricity plants in any numbers once solar is a lot cheaper – not only cleaner, safer, and more natural?

Currently, utilities vary widely in their reactions to our changing circumstances. Many, of course, choose to attack solar power as an enemy and try to delay progress through TV ads, backward laws, and immense investments in electing friendly faces to the regulatory commissions. Arizona's power companies tend to exemplify this approach.

By contrast, Vermont's Green Mountain Power listens to its customers and recognizes that they want to do what's environmentally sound if it won't cost them a bunch more money. GMP now offers “energy makeovers” (more insulation, new ways of heating home and water, L.E.D. light bulbs, and a small solar array) that are financed through the homeowners' rapidly falling utility bills. Vermonters are radically reducing their energy footprint not necessarily because they're worried about climate change, but to save money.

We need to recognize that times change and technologies develop. There was a time the public gave railroads everything they wanted, because the country needed railroads. Decades later, that wouldn't have made sense. Similarly, decades ago we needed utilities to build a dependable electrical system, and the best technology was gas-fired plants. Now we need (and can develop) systems that are more energy efficient and more economic.

In New York, a reform effort sparked by Hurricane Sandy led to the appointment of an energy czar who developed a program of incentives called Reforming the Energy Vision (REV). Where Con Ed had initially planned to build a billion-dollar substation to meet growing electrical demand in Brooklyn, the utility instead will encourage installation of solar panels and new storage batteries, and will pay customers to limit usage during peak hours. That'll save many millions of dollars. Although REV is an unproven work-in-progress, New York is at least asking the right questions.

There are two keys: technology and regulatory vision. As technology improvements help us move from “Can we get the homeowner to invest some money to help the environment” to “Can we educate the homeowner on how to save money and help the environment,” we also need our regulators to deal fairly but firmly with electric utilities. In part, that means developing programs that eliminate the strong financial incentive for utilities to trick us into approving an expensive new gas-fired generating plant we'll be stuck paying for over the next half-century. The rules should encourage and reward best practices by both the utility and the homeowner or business.

Unfortunately, New Mexico's current governor ain't likely to be in the market for sensible and creative ways to get constituents the best possible value from their electric utilities.

[This column appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 5 July and will appear later today on KRWG-TV's website.]

[Two or three points stand out: that the electric utilities are on the wrong side of history; that too many of the utilities feel that they're in a battle to the death against renewable energy sources; but that much of the blame for our current situation lies with legislators and regulators, who've too often proved lazy, corrupt, and/or unimaginative and who've supported or allowed a system that encourages utilities to make wrong decisions.
I discussed that last point adequately in the column above and two weeks ago.  (Page down through the posts on the eagle and the Pope or click here to see the column from two weeks ago.) 
But the wrong-side-of-history issue is worth contemplating.  Reminiscent of the owner of a town's biggest livery stable manipulating the vote against putting in a paved highway that would encourage cars, expediting the obsolescence of the horse.
There isn't any perfect analogy.  Railways could use their political power (and their bought-and-paid-for senators and representatives) to slow down any governmental encouragement of horseless carriages; but trains and cars didn't have to use the same track.  In most fields, monopolies are forbidden.  Utilities appear uniquely positioned to hamper our society's freedom of movement toward a better future.  At minimum they can and will charge us tolls in the millions or billions of dollars.  Saddle-makers who foresaw the future couldn't sabotage development of the automobile nearly so well, nor could chautauquas prevent the spread of radios, mass magazines throttle development of television sets,  or the local iceman commit us to a 50-year contract for ice just as magazines began advertising refrigerators (or ice-boxes).  Nor could typewriter manufacturers or slide-rule makers stop the spread of computers.
But utilities, given a sleepy public and substandard regulators, could do a lot to make us pay through the nose for what we don't need, and keep doing so long after it's clear to everyone we don't need it.
And: a sleepy or indifferent public largely guarantees substandard regulators, because the utilities always keep their eyes on the ball.]

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Pope Francis's Climate Change Warning

Prince Myshkin, protagonist of Dostoyevsky's The Idiot, is an “idiot” because he takes the words of Jesus quite literally, not realizing (as the mature adults around them do) that such sentiments are all very well in their place but not to be acted upon. 
Pope Francis seems a little that way. In a traditional situation where the Pope displays his humility, Pope Francis chose to do so with juvenile delinquents in a jail; and rather than any ceremonial washing, he chose to kneel down and give their feet a good washing. Clearly he didn’t get it at all!

He keeps getting himself in trouble by speaking plainly to power and saying things that just aren’t said. 
But like the Idiot, he’s no fool.

Notably, he’s suggested that while Catholic traditions consider homosexuality and abortion bad conduct, it might make sense in the 21st Century for the Church to prioritize its causes. 
The Church does not think people should make love out of wedlock, with same-sex or heterosexual loves, and where heterosexual conduct causes pregnancy, that pregnancy should not be terminated except by God. But to Pope Francis those individuals are not enemies, or lost souls. They are to be reached out to as people who have erred. Unlike some who seem drawn to religion as an excuse to bash others who have different beliefs, he endeavors to maintain human connections even while criticizing.

And the world has more urgent needs. 
Extreme and growing world-wide economic inequality threatens to destroy the fabric of society. The Church’s clannish protection of child-molesting priests has caused many more kids to suffer molestation by priests who should have been defrocked, not coddled and transferred. And scientists agree overwhelmingly that “global weirdness” threatens to destroy civilization as we know it, that human activities are a significant contributor to that, and that it’s probably already too late to spare ourselves at least some of the consequences. 
Further, since most secular governments are controlled by or beholden to wealthy interests that benefit from the growing inequality and can’t pause profiting long enough to address the mess humans are making of their nest, Prince Myshkin – uhh, the Pope – can clearly see that world-politics-as-usual ain’t gonna get it done.

And so we have this beautifully-written encyclical, Laudato Si
Good for the human population and great for the Church, which seemed to rival only Bill Clinton as an inexhaustible source of sexual jokes. Suddenly instead of preparing for the punch-line when someone says “priest” people see in their mind's eye a courageous fighter for good – and for the best-possible future.

Jesus may preach of love and fairness, but over the centuries love is not always what the world has experienced from the Church: the Inquisition was hardly love; the selling of indulgences was more like extortion than love; the long, vicious wars between Catholics and Protestants were not unlike the madness we see now between Shi'a and Sunni; and the Church's record during the Holocaust is a murky chapter marked by occasional heroism but frequent compromise – and worse. Then the priests who couldn't keep it in their cassocks, and the “organization men” who protected them.

Francis seems determined to right the ship. 
All is not light. An able cross-examiner would chew up the inconsistency between discouraging contraception and expressing concern about the environmental deterioration to which overpopulation contributes. 
But we are watching something remarkable. We are watching someone remarkable. The contrast with his predecessor – and with other world leaders is dizzying. Will we hear soon from Christian church leaders uneasy about our casual destruction of God's bounty.

We should not take this lightly. 

[This column appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-New this morning, Sunday, 28 June, and will appear shortly on the KRWG-TV website.]

[A recent "Sound-Off" in the Sun-News took the Pope to task, mentioning the Vatican's indefensible treatment of Gallileo and his nutty idea that the Earth actually revolved around the Sun, rather than the reverse.  Unfortunately, there's no parallel: then, the Vatican was too attached to its traditional view of things to recognize a promising scientific point.  Here, the Vatican has studied up on modern science and joined the chorus trying to get through to the folks who don't want to face some significant problems.  It's the Republican office-holders and office-seekers, like Rick Santorum, who are too stuck in their own ideological quicksand to move.  I mention Santorum because his objection that the Pope wasn't a scientist applies equally to himself, except that th Pope apparently worked in chemistry at some point in his youth, which, though irrelevant, is more than Santorum can claim.]

[Like Santorum and the Pope, I'm not a scientist.  Anticipating an attack on that ground, likely from a retired local meteorologist, I readily confess.  I'm not a hip surgeon or biologist, either; but when I'm faced with deciding who to have replace my hip or how to treat an illness, I read and listen as widely as I can, recognizing I don't understand every detail, and make the best decision I can.  I rely on secondary indices of credibility and draw reasonable inferences.  Here, the local fellow could cross-question me about his weather charts and make me look as dumb as a Republican Presidential candidate, but a couple of prominent facts stick out: the Pope is on the side of the overwhelming consensus of serious scientists (whose near-unanimity doesn't make them right, but establishes them as odds-on favorites to be close to the mark); peer-reviewed journals show a dearth of articles demolishing the idea of climate change (or global-weirdness); yet the vast wealth of the Koch Brothers and much of U.S. industry stands ready to turn a smart young scientist into Croesus if s/he can come up with a really significant disproof.  Even the U.S. Army, not noted for frivolousness or fads, is observing and dealing with and planning for the problem.  All of which seems pretty significant in trying to figure out who's right here.]

Sunday, June 21, 2015

El Paso Electric, the PRC, and Us

About five years ago, El Paso Electric's electricity supply was mostly adequate, except during brief but sharp spikes in usage on summer afternoons.

EPE could have changed its rate structures to offer us a deal we couldn't refuse. Hike the rate at peak hours and perhaps discount off-peak usage. Only a mooncalf would run his dryer or dishwasher at 2 p.m.

Knowledgeable critics claim this could have solved the problem – while serving the public interest. EPE says it has rate structures to encourage off-peak use; but critics say the choices EPE offers are relatively limited and aren't marketed well.

EPE convinced the regulators it needed much greater capacity. (As part of the tradeoff for monopolizing a valuable and socially important resource, EPE has to ask “Mother, may I?” before taking such a step.)

Critics say EPE could have acquired additional capacity contractually, through a solar source. They say solar would have cost less than half the cost of building and running two more gas-fired generation stations. (Customers would ultimately pay the cost for either alternative.) Building a gas-fired plant with a 50-year life expectancy doesn't seem real smart in a world trying to wean itself from fossil fuels.

NM regulators approved EPE's construction of the plants, which could be dinosaurs well before New Mexicans finish paying for them. (In a quick initial conversation, EPE executives said they could not recall a viable alternative, noted that an independent consultant assesses the bids they get, and promised to look into it.)

The main reason for the present rate case is “Gee, we had to build these huge expensive plants, and now you have to pay for them.”

Why would EPE make such a choice?

Critics say the key is in how EPE profits. With most EPE expenses, like buying power from the solar folks, customers ultimately must reimburse EPE. But on capital investments in non-depreciated assets, EPE is entitled to “a reasonable rate of return.” Profit.

“Solar would have cost less than half,” says Rocky Baca. “In my opinion, they chose the plants because they could make the profit, even though it costs the rest of us more than double.”

Steve Fischmann says the regulatory system “forces companies into bad decision-making.” Make one choice, and we'll reimburse your expenses; buy a new asset, and you can make a profit. That's wrong, and should change; but the problem is the system. (EPE execs say the PRC has approved its moves by granting a certificate of necessity.) Fischmann says the PRC is frequently “asleep at the switch” and that EPE has skillfully “gamed the regulatory system and manipulated the regulators.”

But mostly we must pay more attention next time around. (I hasten to add that I'm just starting to look into the allegations about EPE's conduct and motives.) The system, which I think even EPE execs would admit could theoretically push a company toward bad decision-making appears a problem. (Corporations exist to create profits. Acting morally outraged when they try to do so seems kind of silly; but setting watchdogs to keep us informed makes sense.)

The piecemeal regulatory process (“Balkanized,” Steve called it) means that if you argue in the current rate case that EPE shouldn't be rewarded for bad decisions, EPE might waggle its finger at you and chortle that you should have paid more attention five years ago. And EPE would be right.

For future rate cases, what matters is now. That's why our local governments must “intervene” in all these proceedings: some of them carry huge and perhaps stupid costs a few years down the road.


[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 21 June, and will appear shortly on KRWG-TV's website as well.]

[I think it's important to change and improve the quality of the dialogue between El Paso Electric Company and the public.  Since I like to ask questions but have no deep knowledge of the subject, I hope I can help. 
At the start, it's useful to step back and think about our relationship with EPE.  EPE is not "the Enemy", but a purveyor of an important resource.   Nor is EPE our dear friend, always looking out for us and the environment, as some of its advertising might suggest.  Ain't so.  Can't be so.  EPE is a corporation, and thus legally tasked with maximizing shareholder profits.  Yes, it does some good things in the community, for which it deserves credit; but it ain't our pal.
EPE is both like and unlike the Vescopo folks, from whom we actually bought a modern car a few years ago.  They're alike because we deal at arms' length.  We know Vescovo's in business to maximize profit; they know that if we could find an ethical way to buy our Prius for $1,000 less, we'd do so.  But EPE differs from Vescopo in important ways: EPE has zillions more customers, for fewer dollars per transaction, so we matter more to the Vescopo folks as potential repeat customers or as potential word-of-mouth reporters, positive or negative.  EPE also differs because most of what it's talking about is unfamiliar to most of us.  Above all, we can't easily go buy electricity from a competitor.  EPE is a monopoly.  Therefore the New Mexico PRC, at least theoretically, steps in to permit EPE a reasonable profit and protect us from getting hammered. 

So we should neither assume everything EPE says in a PRC proceeding is truth or assume everything is a lie.  EPE is quite naturally trying to get the PRC to approve what's best for EPE.  Some of what EPE would like is not in our interest.   Some probably is.  Other things may not much matter to us, but enable EPE to function more efficiently.   But I'm not smart enough to know which is which.  Nor are most of you.  Therefore (a) I'm asking, out of my own curiosity and on others' behalf, trying to steer a path through the contradictory claims and outlooks of EPE and its critics and (b) there's a push to have our municipal and county governments pay someone to take a close look  and "intervene" in these proceedings.  Sounds like basic prudence.  
In addition, some EPE decisions are really public policy decisions that should be made by us or our elected representatives.  (Nor is the PRC the ideal decision-maker in these areas.)   How strongly to discourage peak-time usage of electricity or encourage use of renewable energy are not mere business decisions such as how fast a gas-fired plant needs to be able to get up to speed when turned on.
Do I start with some skepticism toward EPE's stated rationales for its requested rate hike?  Of course.  You betcha.  Just as I'd listen critically to the claims someone made who was trying to sell me a computer, car, or motorcycle.  But neither does that skepticism mean that after some investigation and a little consultation with folks who know a little more, I might become convinced.
Maybe this should be obvious.  But I see folks yammering all night about what the City or County does wrong, while ignoring a PRC proceeding that likely has more impact on each of us individually.  I see other folks unwilling to listen at all to EPE.]

[Having said all that (less succinctly than I'd have wished to), I do suspect that some of what we need to be looking at is changing a few of the rules.  Whether or not EPE hosed us by building two -- ultimately four -- power plants when it could have done something far more cost-effective (with our dollars), one does have to wonder if the rules should be written in a way that apparently encourages someone to waste our money. ]

[There's a lot to say about these matters, and I'll hope to write several more columns on EPE and the PRC this season.]

Friday, June 12, 2015

Are Bullying and Favoritism Undermining Las Cruces Public Schools?

There's apparently a bullying problem within the Las Cruces Public School District: many employees say Superintendent Stan Rounds shows extreme favoritism toward folks he likes but has many others “very scared.”

This column is based on extensive conversations with people who will go mostly unnamed because they fear retribution from Rounds. I've found many folks convincing. I've noticed consistency among accounts from different people in different schools and in different positions. 
I've also heard the fear in people's voices, a fear that has no place in a well-run organization. One person, declining to comment, said that the walls had ears, adding that someone could be listening outside the door. “I can't afford to lose my job for answering your question.” 
Many allege that Rounds's favoritism torpedoes morale. They complain of his favoritism toward his fiancée Kathy Adams and her family. 
The JUMP (Joint Ungraded Multi-age Program) story is a beautiful one that turns sad. Teachers from JUMP (and LEAP) speak with true excitement about the teaching they did. The idea was to work with kids who might otherwise be held back because they couldn't read, using a creative combination of new technology and ideas as old as the one-room schoolhouse to improve kids' academic performance.

It seems to have worked. Teachers describe a very non-traditional classroom where a second-grader would be helping a kindergarten kid make her letters and another student would be reading to a row of stuffed toys along the wall. “They thought they were playing. They didn't even know they were learning.”

But they did learn. Not by rote, either, but by good old-fashioned creative teaching. My understanding is that by year's end these kids – from the most difficult socio-economic backgrounds and with the poorest histories of reading and study – had gone from “They'll have to be left back” to above-average among their peers.

But Mr. Rounds's personal motives got in the way. He made Ms. Adams the instruction specialist, although she was not particularly qualified. There was an interviewing process in name only.
Barbara Hammond, an experienced teacher who interviewed for the position, says there were applicants far more qualified than she or Ms. Adams; but she says it was clear that the administration had someone in mind. Ms. Adams, whom she likes, even tried to warn her, urging her (before the selection was made) not to be disappointed. An early teacher in the JUMP Program stated that Ms. Adams was by far the least qualified candidate for the position.

Once installed as instruction specialist, and later principal (though she'd never been an assistant principal, so far as I know), Ms. Adams pressed her ideas on the teachers and invoked Mr. Rounds's name to up the pressure when she didn't get what she wanted. According to some teachers, she forced the group to use methods that didn't fit what they were trying to accomplish. Teachers who'd gone to work joyfully began having a very different experience. 
I'm told that most or all of the teachers in JUMP (and LEAP) filed extensive grievances this past year about Adams; but since the grievances go only to her supervisor, Mr. Rounds, getting a fair hearing has been difficult. 
There have also been extensive complaints about JUMP (and LEAP) getting goodies other schools and departments don't procure so easily.

Regardless of whether there's serious bullying and favoritism, I'm wondering about the ethics of Rounds making decisions to spend significant chunks of public money on his girlfriend. How can he be expected to make those decisions in an unbiased way, purely in the school district's interest, as the law requires? We all know love makes things awfully complicated.

[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 14 June and will appear later today on KRWG-TV's website.  It's the second of two related columns.  The first  primarily discussed MacArthur Elementary.  The comments people posted in response to that first one were interesting.  A couple of additional individuals with experience at MacArthur echoed what I'd been told; and one (who apparently joined the "blogging community" this month just to comment negatively on my post) defended principal Ragan.  Privately, someone I know who left before Ms. Ragan's tenure took issue with my favorable reference to her predecessor Mr. Stuart, and said he too was a bully.]
[Meanwhile, several people have asked me why Mr. Rounds is not on administrative leave pending the reported investigation of LEAP.  He told me he hadn't been told what it's about.  That suggests that the board may not trust him and that he may be a target of the investigation.  That does lead one to wonder why he should not only be still in the office but reportedly scheduling interviews for the outside investigators.  But since the Board also doesn't tell me what's going on either, I can't begin to answer anyone's questions concerning Mr. Rounds.]

[These sorts of columns are draining to write, and this one was all the more so because I was revising it well into the week -- while recovering from a full hip replacement operation I had Tuesday morning.  (btw, if you may need such an operation, let me note that after having had two hips replaced within the past 12 months, plus a little investigation, I could not recommend Dr. Brandon Broome in El Paso more highly.  He seems excellent; I recovered quickly and fully from the first operation, and this one seems to have gone well too; other people I know have also had good experience with him.  He's in El Paso.  Charles Brandon Broome.)  
It's draining to deal with people who are scared and stressed.  It's draining to deal with people who put their hearts and souls into something -- whether it's being a sheriff's deputy or teaching kids -- and are getting unnecessarily abused in a work-place where it's clear that speaking out could be a career-ending move.

[I've worked in a variety of situations, and have never understood the mentality that demands maximum personal credit for everything good, while rinsing oneself clean of blame as frenetically as Lady MacBeth.  I always felt that folks who spread the credit around fairly were more appealing and ultimately more effective.   I tried to do that when I supervised people.  And I worked more comfortably for people who supervised me that way.
Here, from the NBA because it's on my mind, is a great example.  Game four of the championship finals.  Golden State Warriors, favored, fall behind two games to one in the best-of-seven series, knowing no team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the finals.  The Cleveland Cavaliers, led by Lebron James, are winning, partly by slowing the game down and partly because Lebron is unstoppable.  
Suddenly in Game 4 the Warriors change their starting line-up, starting aging former all-star Andre Iguodala in place of seven-foot center Andrew Bogut, playing 6 foot 7 forward Draymond Green as center, and putting Iguodala on James most of the time on defense.  They "went small" to speed up the game, risking loss of a bunch of rebounds to the taller Cavs.  At least for the moment, it worked.
Head Coach Steve Kerr readily admits that the suggestion came not from him or his top coaches, and not from a star player, but from the low man on the coaching totem pole, a 28-year-old  video assistant.  But Kerr accepted it and gave the kid full credit.  As one commentator put it, "It's rare to see such an open and supportive environment in the NBA, as head coaches are often afraid to be overshadowed by their assistants. In Oakland it seems no one is afraid to speak their minds."
I thought of the Las Cruces Public Schools, where several knowledgeable people have told me that Stan Rounds will often pick a relatively unqualified candidate for principal over a better-qualified candidate who won't ask inconvenient questions.  (There's some anecdotal support for that view, but it would be hard to prove how accurate it is, particularly since personnel records are rightly confidential.)

[Ugly things continue to happen at the Las Cruces public schools.]

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Teachers Allege Favoritism and Bad Management

            Is MacArthur Elementary a case study in how a superintendent's favoritism can harm a school? Several present and former teachers and staff say it is.   

            Soon after Kathy Adams, Superintendent Stan Rounds's fiancée, was hired at MacArthur, Terry Stuart, MacArthur's very capable principal, moved to Central Office, and  inexperienced Karla Ragan (then Ruiz) replaced him.  

            Ragan had briefly been an assistant principal.  Often it takes an assistant 2-3 years to become Principal.  Rounds says there's no set requirement.

            Once Adams started there, Rounds frequently visited MacArthur.  (“Day and night,” said one person.  Another added, “Mr. Rounds said, 'I love this school.  It's my favorite school.' Then the day she left, no more.”)

            District employees spoke similarly of Rounds's presence at the LEAP Program when Ms. Adams ran that.  “He was there pretty much every day, unless he was traveling on business,” said one source.  Staff and students even complained about public displays of affection, including hugging and kissing. 

            Rounds notes that he helped in designing the program, and that “my frequenting the school may have been more likely because of the design elements.”  He declined to comment on student complaints, but said “It could be that I might have held her hand on occasion as we walked from place to place, but I don't think that's inappropriate.

            Rounds confirmed reports of an investigation of LEAP, but said the Board hadn't advised him of the precise subject.

            Of MacArthur, I heard two very different portraits.

            Numerous sources say Ragan bullied and harassed experienced staff into leaving and that complaints or grievances were “swept under the rug” by Rounds.  Another said a grievance against Ragan would be “professional suicide.  Even if you won, you lost.”  

            The school experienced high turnover.  “The year I left, thirteen of us left.  It was scary being there.  I knew I could lose my job for nothing,” said one teacher.  During Stuart's ten years, few teachers left except to retire.  “We were a family,” one said.  Another said stability is particularly important to a school in a lower socio-economic area.  A third said the school “just fell apart.”

            However, Rounds says that under several objective measures, notably student academic performance, MacArthur has improved significantly under Ms. Ragan's leadership.

            Was the principal jettisoning teachers whose experience made her nervous -- or spotting serious flaws other principals had missed?   She viewed some people who had lengthy and good records, including national board certification, as very bad teachers.  When one teacher remarked that she'd never been evaluated so low, Ragan reportedly said Stuart hadn't known what he was doing.

            There's certainly discontent at MacArthur.   Teachers allege extreme favoritism and “just plain meanness.”  They say that Ragan, perhaps because of her inexperience, felt intimidated by more experienced teachers; and several said, in various ways, that she lets her favorites get by with things but lowers the boom on folks she doesn't care for.   A grievance letter from former teacher Maribel Villalobos accuses Ms. Ragan of “threatening and/or bullying tactics” and of insulting and biased conduct.  Others say Ragan made insulting remarks or demeaned them. 

            Villalobos (who'd taught for thirty years “with never even a 'needs to improve'”) was suddenly placed on a Growth Plan in May 2013.  (“Usually improvement plans come in the fall, when there's time to help someone improve,” one teacher said.)     

            Others dared not speak up publicly about alleged mistreatment.    Others left because they felt that working under Ragan was unpleasant.  Several said she'd let her favorites get away with anything, and lower the boom on non-favorites for trivial offenses or asking inconvenient questions.

            Based on what I'm hearing, I'd urge someone to take a closer look at MacArthur. 
[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 7 June, and will appear later today on KRWG's website.]