Freedom New Mexico
When Concerned Citizens of Curry County first appeared last month, we welcomed their voice, wanted to know more about their concerns of racial inequality in Clovis Municipal Schools’ leadership, wanted to hear their solutions to problems we know exist.
Then their stunning allegations were quickly proven false, their demands were clearly unreasonable, and we’re still waiting to hear their ideas for solutions. When their credibility was called into question, they responded with secret meetings.
We had no reason to doubt the motivation of longtime educator and youth leader David Briseno when he formed CCCC. But his actions the past month appear more like those of someone still bitter that he wasn’t named five years ago as CMS superintendent.
The worst part is our community could benefit from a frank and open discussion about race relations today, and whether enough is being done to ensure residents of all ethnic groups that community leaders have the social and economic backgrounds necessary to effectively represent our residents.
Unfortunately, Briseno’s leadership has jeopardized that opportunity by making claims that to date have not been proven truthful.
This situation began when about 150 CCCC members made their first public appearance at an April 27 school board meeting. They complained about purported cuts to the district’s Leadership Institute and Lincoln-Jackson Family Center, programs that assist poor and minority families. They also alleged school administrators were pushing out minority leaders across the district. And they demanded the immediate removal of Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm, who had already announced plans to retire in June.
It turns out that neither the Leadership Institute nor Lincoln-Jackson Family Center were facing cuts. And the number of minority school administrators have actually increased since Seidenwurm became superintendent in 2005.
So why did the Briseno-led group want Seidenwurm run out of town two months before she planned to go anyway? Could it be because Briseno didn’t get the superintendent’s job that went to Seidenwurm, who also did not name him assistant superintendent? Or is this really about how Briseno and CCCC members want to steer the school board’s next superintendent consideration only to a minority candidate — perhaps even Briseno?
If those suspicions appear far-fetched, remember that Briseno told the school board the group was “here to protest against the evil in our district.”
Public doubts about the claims grew when CCCC held a “public meeting” May 10 only for CCCC members and those interested in becoming members. Briseno told reporters that media, who report issues for all residents, could not attend that meeting because members would be less likely to voice concerns if they knew media were watching. But, he assured us, Thursday’s meeting with a representative of the U.S. Department of Justice would be open to the media.
Turns out his words were not true. Just before Thursday’s meeting, Briseno told CNJ reporter Lili Castillo that media were not welcome, after all. “Not my decision,” he said later, claiming the federal government official, Justo Garcia, had banned media.
We don’t know if Briseno’s words are truthful because Garcia refused to talk to Castillo when Thursday’s meeting ended. A phone call to his Houston office on Friday was answered with a recording that said Garcia is on “extended leave” and his cases were being handled by a regional representative in Dallas.
A DOJ spokeswoman said Garcia has returned to work and just “needs to change his voicemail.” Just one more inconsistency that seems to define CCCC.
We agree with Seidenwurm that “It’s very beneficial to the children to see people in positions of authority that look like them, that they can relate to, that have been part of their heritage …” And we wonder if school officials are doing enough to find minority candidates in school leadership positions.
It’s a shame Briseno has lost the credibility needed to help lead that discussion.
Hopefully, someone more responsible will try again soon.