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Public Education Deputy Secretary Gwen Perea Warniment, at a hearing earlier this year before the Legislative Education Study Committee, has been named the panel’s new director.

Public Education Deputy Secretary Gwen Perea Warniment was unanimously appointed Tuesday as director of the state Legislative Education Study Committee.

Warniment will play a major part in crafting legislation for the influential committee, which comprises dozens of state lawmakers, including 10 voting members.

She also will manage a team of policy analysts, help prepare budgets, attend public meetings and sit on the Public School Capital Outlay Council.

“Dr. Warniment is exceedingly qualified and committed to the education system and children of New Mexico,” committee Chairman Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, said in a statement. “She knows the schools, as a former student, a parent, and an administrator, and understands the challenges and successes of educating our students.”

Judy Robinson, a spokeswoman for the state Public Education Department, wrote in an email Warniment will start the new job in the first week of June but had not yet submitted a resignation date. Officials will soon update the deputy secretary’s job description and recruit a replacement, Robinson added.

Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said in a statement, “We are happy to see Gwen move forward in her career, and we want everyone to be aware that the Public Education Department is a place for people to grow. Her departure, while sad for those of us who work with her every day, opens new leadership opportunities for others, both within the department and externally.”

Also in the running for the job were Daniel Benavidez, the former superintendent of the Central Consolidated School District, and Mayra Valtierrez, the Hispanic education liaison and director of the Culture and Language Bureau of the Public Education Department.

All three participated in public interviews Tuesday before the 10 voting committee members approved Warniment.

Last week, nearly eight months after longtime Director Rachel Gudgel resigned amid allegations of workplace misconduct, committee members narrowed their selection to the three finalists.

Gudgel, the committee’s director for five years, earned about $130,000 annually.

A job posting states the salary for the new director will be determined by experience.

Warniment, who took on her current role in the curriculum and instruction division of the state education agency in 2019, earns $135,908.50 a year, according to the New Mexico Sunshine Portal.

Before joining the Public Education Department, Warniment was a program director for the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation.

She has taught at New Mexico Highlands University, New Mexico State University and public schools in Los Alamos and

Santa Fe.

In her current role, Warniment manages a roughly $250 million budget and 80 staff members.

“We thought it was important we hire someone who has been a teacher. Unless you’ve done that, I don’t think you understand what it’s like to get into a classroom and take those students from A to Z,” said Rep. Susan Herrera, D-Embudo, a member of the Legislative Education Study Committee.

“I’m thrilled,” Warniment said in a statement. “I’m excited to work for the committee and, with them, toward improving education for New Mexico’s children.”

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