The state Public Education Department secretary has told New Mexico’s largest school district — reeling from the indictment of former Albuquerque Public Schools administrator and high-ranking legislator Sheryl Williams Stapleton — it must keep careful watch over federal vocational education funds if it wants to see that money in this year’s budget.
Williams Stapleton could face up to 79 years in prison if convicted on 28 racketeering, money laundering and fraud charges in connection with her position in the Albuquerque district, through which she oversaw the use of vocational funding.
In a letter sent Tuesday to APS Superintendent Scott Elder, Public Education Department Secretary Kurt Steinhaus stipulated multiple conditions the district must fulfill before receiving funds from the federal Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. Albuquerque Public Schools is slated to receive more than $1 million from the funds for the 2022 fiscal year, according to planning estimates. New Mexico was awarded more than $9 million last year to distribute to local districts and charters.
The district must make updates to its federal procurement procedures and train staff accordingly. The district must also hire an independent auditor to oversee that process, according to the letter.
By the start of October, APS must appoint someone to as a point of contact with the state until the extra oversight measures are removed, the timeline of which is yet to be decided. Steinhaus also wrote in the letter to Elder the district has until Oct. 15 to submit a report accounting the funding source of all payments made to Robotics Learning Management LLC from 2016-21.
Nearly $1 million of the more than $5 million the district paid to that company since 2013 has been traced to two businesses and two nonprofits connected to Williams Stapleton.
“PED takes seriously the recent allegations related to APS’ controls over its procurement processes and conflicts related to APS’ CTE program,” Steinhaus wrote.