If politics is a dirty business, government can be a confounding one.

Fallout from the state’s ouster of all five school board members in the tiny town of Floyd is the latest example.

The board members were suspended two months ago for rebelling against a state mandate on masks to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Three of the former board members of the Floyd Municipal Schools aren’t just waiting for their day in court, if they ever get one. They are running for their old seats in the November election.

Because terms are staggered, the other two board seats aren’t on the ballot this year.

All five deposed members so far have failed to regain power through a lawsuit. If litigation continues, would the three on the ballot be able to serve if they are elected?

Interested observer Stan Rounds says yes. He was appointed by the state secretary of education as sort of a temporary one-man school board for the Floyd Municipal Schools.

“The logistic of this is there will be a swearing in on Jan. 1. The three elected people will form a majority. I’ll be through at that point,” said Rounds, a former New Mexico school superintendent who is serving the Floyd district without any compensation.

The legal staff of Public Education Department offers no such certitude about who would lead the Floyd school system.

“In light of the pending legal proceedings, the PED Office of General Counsel declines to provide a response at this time to the question presented regarding the three Floyd school board members,” the agency stated Tuesday.

Lawyers need 32 words to say they’re not talking.

Floyd, 16 miles west of Portales, is a town of about 100 people. The school district is more than double that size. Rounds says Floyd has enrolled 232 area students from prekindergarten through high school.

Kids are wearing masks indoors in accordance with the state mandate. By Rounds’ estimation, the rule isn’t any great controversy for students. The Floyd Broncos upcoming football game against Gateway Christian School is a hotter topic.

Suspended school board member Charlsea Lee says the election is also low key after the first wave of complaints about local control being subverted. She isn’t campaigning hard as she runs for her old seat in a contested race.

“It’s a small enough community. I was on the board for a couple of years, and people know me,” Lee said.

She is home-schooling her daughter, a first grader who previously was enrolled in Floyd’s public schools.

Another suspended board member, Jeff Essary, also faces an opponent in the election.

Essary, 48, became the most publicized of the former board members after he contracted COVID-19 and underwent a long stay at Roosevelt General Hospital in Portales.

He had declined to be vaccinated, but then criticized the quality of care he received from the hospital. Essary apologized for his harsh words after he began to feel better.

“We all get scared when we can’t breathe,” he wrote to me while still hospitalized. “I feel humbled with my previous statements against RGH. When you’re scared, you always want better care.”

If he had been vaccinated, he might not have suffered or taken up a precious hospital bed.

Vicki Banister, the other ousted board member who’s on the ballot, is assured of victory. She faces no opposition.

Former board members said they were representing the views of their constituents by opposing the Public Education Department’s requirements. Even in a pandemic, they said, parents should decide whether their children wear a mask in a public setting.

The operation of the small district has changed since the school board’s ouster. Rounds stays in contact with the district’s two administrators, Superintendent Damon Terry and Principal Adam Terry. They are brothers.

Rounds says he’s had one hectic moment as the designated substitute for the school board. He had to sign payroll checks on a tight deadline to make sure about 30 employees of the district had money they expected deposited in their bank accounts.

The state and the five people it removed from office still have a window to reach an agreement that would end back-and-forth litigation. If that doesn’t happen by the middle of October, a court hearing will be scheduled.

In many ways, the lawsuits are a sideshow. Kids are masked up. Classes and activities are going on, almost as they were before the pandemic.

Only the school board is missing — an outcome the five members expected when they decided to freelance during a public health crisis.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at msimonich@sfnewmexican.com or 505-986-3080.

(6) comments

Mike Johnson

It's still a free country where the people decide who represents them, so what?

Richard Reinders

Mike, not for long, Biden is morphing the FBI and the IRS into a sort of KGB to go after parents that want control over their children's education and lives and the public banking habits these are scary times when the government controls your private cashflow and your children's thoughts. I get we have differing parties most who have a similar image of where America needs to be but with differing paths to get there, but what is happening in DC is mind blowing the incompetence is beyond belief.

Chris Mechels

Milan couldn't resist inserting himself into the piece with; "If he had been vaccinated, he might not have suffered or taken up a precious hospital bed."

How soon we forget that in early 2020 we were told NOT to wear masks, and even now the mandate in NM is for "masks or face coverings". How about mandating N95 masks, which are more effective?? In fact the wearing of masks is, and has been from the start, political. Milan would have us forget that.... because he is, of course, quite political and not very objective.

Mike Johnson

But Chris, just look how effective mask mandates have been in NM stopping cases from rising and all the surges other states witnessed over the last 2 years......and so effective this last surge, after all cases are, well, flat at about 600 per day since the beginning of August.....never mind.....[lol]

Jim Klukkert

It's a new situation for all of us, for all of science. Data changes, it is a dynamic situation.

So there are still fools who comment "in early 2020 we were told NOT to wear masks," and that the advice has since changed.

If only those same fools could live in a static world. Such joy!

However, in this assumably shared reality, the only constant is change.

Richard Reinders

Agreed Jim the message has been all over the place that is what makes it hard to blame almost anybody that has doubt.

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