Richard Romero, who will be the next superintendent for the Las Vegas City Schools, got his first such leadership job four years ago — in Lordsburg.
And by one former Lordsburg school board member’s account, Romero’s reign as superintendent there wasn’t smooth. But the ex-official said the board was as much to blame for the situation.
On Monday, the Las Vegas City Schools board voted 3-2 for Romero to become the next superintendent. For the last three years, he has been the superintendent of Questa schools. From 2004-05, he held that position for the Lordsburg district.
Romero will be replacing Superintendent Pete Campos, who is becoming Luna Community College’s superintendent in July. Romero, who has been in public education for more than two decades, beat out four other finalists for the top job.
“When Romero came into Lordsburg, we wanted him to stir things up. We shouldn’t have asked him to be so aggressive. The staff weren’t supportive of him,” said George Craig, who was a board member during Romero’s tenure in the small town in southwestern New Mexico.
“He was doing what we asked him to do,” Craig said. “He’s an energetic person. I think he helped us in Lordsburg. In hindsight, we could have handled everything a little better. I think he will do well (in Las Vegas).”
Craig acknowledged that the “straw that broke the camel’s back” was an allegation that Romero had inappropriate photos on his computer. But after a board investigation of the matter, Romero was cleared, Craig said.
The matter was picked up in the media in that area, getting front-page coverage in the Hidalgo County Herald during the summer of 2005.
Craig said an employee who didn’t have authority to go onto the server in which Romero was working found the photos. He said that after the results of the investigation, he didn’t see the photos as a problem.
Amid the controversy, Romero decided to resign. According to a Herald story, Romero said the prejudgment and hatefulness of residents had ruined his reputation and credibility and hurt him and his family.
“I will not stay where I am not wanted,” the Herald reported Romero as telling the board in an open meeting.
At the time, Romero said he believed that an employee from the Hatch Valley schools, his former district, had downloaded the photos without his knowledge along with some templates he needed for his computer, the Herald reported.
However, on Tuesday, he said he had come to believe that a Lordsburg employee disgruntled with personnel changes he made had placed the photos — which he and others described as women in bathing suits — onto his computer.
“People were upset at personnel decisions I was going to make to place them in different capacities for the following school year,” Romero said. “This was done by disgruntled staff as a means to discredit and defame me.”
He said the controversy was fed by the Lordsburg media.
“People need to be very careful about trying people in the court of public opinion. I have a good reputation wherever I’ve been,” he said.
Romero said he was disappointed that the controversy was even something that the Optic and others were discussing.
Each City Schools board member was assigned a finalist to investigate before the board made a hiring decision. Patrick Romero, the City Schools board president, looked into the background of Richard Romero, who is no relation.
Patrick Romero pushed for Associate Superintendent Barbara Perea Casey to become superintendent and voted against Richard Romero’s selection. But he said the Lordsburg controversy had no impact on his view of Richard Romero.
“There was nothing of any substance in the allegations. (Lordsburg) folks raised a ruckus,” he said, calling it an “inconsequential issue.”
He said he went with Casey because she was the most qualified.
Ramon “Swoops” Montao, who also voted against Richard Romero, said the controversy had nothing to do with his vote. He said he favored David Briseo, the federal programs director for the Clovis schools.
He said he heard a little about the Lordsburg matter during the closed session in which board members discussed the candidates.
“My decision (against Romero) wasn’t based on that,” he said.