‘Educator at heart’ selected as new director of LESC

May 11—The Legislative Education Study Committee named a new leader—about eight months after its last director left amid controversy.

Gwen Perea Warniment was selected after three finalists were interviewed for the position on Tuesday morning.

Committee chairman Sen. William Soules, D-Las Cruces, described her as “extremely qualified and committed to the education system and the children of New Mexico.”

“It’s a bit of a dream job,” Perea Warniment told the Journal. “It’s a critical role because it serves a bipartisan, bicameral committee, which means it’s about cultivating and/or encouraging that we listen to each other. And that’s a huge thing for may this committee be a model for the rest of the state.”

Perea Warniment, 46, is already a leader in the state Department of Public Education, currently serving as assistant secretary for teaching, learning and assessment. She will step into the director role in late May or early June, according to a press release.

As Director, Perea Warniment will manage a team of analysts who conduct ongoing study of New Mexico education laws, policies, and costs. The LESC, made up of 31 state legislators, also recommends funding levels for public education and changes to education laws.

Perea Warniment’s salary is currently being negotiated, LESC spokeswoman Helen Gaussoin said. The committee’s acting director currently earns about $135,500, Gaussoin said, and as deputy secretary Perea Warniment earned about $135,900.

Perea Warniment said she was especially honored to be selected because she is from New Mexico and because she is an “educator at heart.”

Prior to serving as assistant secretary, she worked in science education as a program director for the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation. She has also been an educational coach and teacher in public schools.

She said her priorities as director will be primarily to serve LESC and its staff. In this role, she said her job is to facilitate the collection of evidence-based best practices with “voices from across New Mexico” to help inform lawmakers to achieve the results everyone is looking for. .

“The support staff is sort of initial… I want to be able to listen to the Legislative Assembly, or this particular committee,” she said. “Then I want to be able to help them make those decisions.”

At the same time, she said she also hopes to solve New Mexico’s “labour crisis.” That includes teacher vacancies and retention issues, issues she says also extend to educational support providers and other school staff.

“This workforce crisis that we are experiencing in the state seems to be, in my opinion, the most fundamental in order to be able to guarantee or implement any other policy that we wish to see happen,” she said. declared.

The other finalists were Mayra Valtierrez, director of the Language and Culture Division, and Daniel Benavidez, former superintendent of the Consolidated Central School District. The three finalists were selected from a pool of 12 applicants.

The committee’s former director, Rachel Gudgel, resigned in September following allegations that she made derogatory comments about Native Americans.

Legislative staff has not released the findings of a staff investigation, making it unclear what she was accused of saying and what allegations were substantiated.

Many have called for his resignation or removal, including tribal leaders. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said she would have fired Gudgel had she worked for the administration.

Norma A. Roth