On behalf of Dr. Jeffrey Spaletta, Cobre Superintendent

Dr. Jeffrey Spaletta was hired by the Cobre Consolidated School District as a Transitional Administrator on June 2, 2022 and was formally hired as the Superintendent on July 1, 2022. His employment as the leader of Cobre Schools came at a very turbulent time for the District. In April 2022, the then sitting Cobre Board President and Vice President were both facing a recall election due to multiple issues of malfeasance and misfeasance in office involving financial matters of the District and violations of their oaths of office for numerous breaches of local and state ethical policies. The investigation into these allegations were only suspended because both elected officials resigned from their office before formal proceedings began in mid-July of 2022.

After an intensive superintendent search, the Board selected Dr. Jeff Spaletta to lead Cobre during this hectic and unprecedented time due to his experience as a "turnaround" leader and for his ability to effectively advocate for the improvement of student achievement for Cobre ISD students. Dr. Spaletta was charged by the Cobre Board to organize and direct a transitional 120-day plan to steer the District back into compliance with local and state policies. Further, the Board hired Dr. Spaletta to analyze all levels of the District in order to reinstate accountability for the staff and personnel hired to serve Cobre students and families. Lastly, the superintendent was directed by the Board to responsibly evaluate all District resources in order to maximize their effectiveness to meet District educational and safety goals. Dr. Spaletta's continual commitment to Cobre included communicating all expectations to the Cobre community via several public meetings, school staff meetings, and student forums.

During the first 120 days of his tenure, Dr. Spaletta took that opportunity to become more familiar with the District's culture, build trust with community leaders, and to listen and learn from his Cobre constituents in an effort to improve student outcomes. As the school leader, he routinely meets with key administrators of his Cabinet to openly communicate these needs and expectations. The guidance he receives from both his Board and Cabinet are essential to helping move the District forward.

During a Board retreat on December 10, 2022, Dr. Spaletta publicized his vision as he presented the outcomes of his 120-day entry plan. As part of this plan, he outlined a three-year strategic timetable including a proposed organizational chart offering full transparency to the Board of his intentions to adhere to the duties and responsibilities he was hired for as Superintendent of Cobre Schools. Dr. Spaletta's activities and meetings during his first 120 days with Board members, school staff, students, parents, and community leaders uncovered many serious issues that had persisted at Cobre CSD prior to his tenure. These included serious financial audit problems, inappropriate relationships between staff/students including assaults, lack of accountability at multiple levels, lack of curriculum implementation, lack of supplies or support for teachers across the district, bullying by students and teachers, Title IX issues, staff attendance problems, multiple fire code violations, unsafe and poorly maintained buses, and questionable employment practices including unjustified salary raises by district executive staff in excess of $20,000. These practices went unchecked by prior District and Board leadership and led to systemic misconduct and mismanagement. This current Board decided enough was enough and directed Dr. Spaletta, whom they had hired from outside the community, to initiate his plan and be a driving force for meaningful change.

Dr. Spaletta's commitment to improving student achievement has led to uncovering and unrooting unethical conduct that has come at a great cost, both to him as the District's leader and to Cobre Schools as well. On December 12, 2022, after presenting his findings to the Board at their retreat, the Board insisted that Dr. Spaletta make a public statement at the Board meeting detailing his findings from his 120-day plan. The Superintendent was asked to specify names and positions that were contributing to the unethical practices occurring at Cobre Schools and how his strategic plan for the District moving forward was intended to address these activities. Within days of doing so, staff from Cobre CSD retaliated by spreading false claims and filing unprovoked grievances against Dr. Spaletta with the Board and the New Mexico Public Education Department for his actions as Superintendent. One staff member retaliated by making false claims that the Superintendent physically assaulted her on District grounds. This egregious claim was investigated with due speed by the state police and closed due to not finding any merit or supporting evidence to corroborate the employee's claim. Another employee retaliated by claiming that Dr. Spaletta changed her contract and harassed her. A third employee retaliated by filing a grievance with the Board making false allegations of workplace harassment. All three of these employees filed their complaint with the Board using the same attorney to represent their issues. All three of these employees were also disgruntled employees that the District was overcompensating for their underperformance and lack of credentials. Further, On December 14, 2022, a hostile community member authored a letter to the Board and to state officials listing unsubstantiated claims of a hostile work environment. This letter was signed by twelve staff members. On December 20, 2022, Dr. Spaletta was placed on paid administrative leave due to investigations authorized by the Board into the complaints received by District employees. Subsequently, over the last four months, the superintendent has been the subject of several separate investigations based on false allegations that has cost the District thousands of taxpayer dollars. The board has done its due diligence in ensuring that these allegations were fully investigated by independent investigators. Each independent investigator hired by the Board has concluded that the allegations made against Dr. Spaletta were unfounded and that he has acted in accordance to the expectations of the Cobre CSD Board and his contract as Superintendent of Cobre Schools. In fact, all separate investigation reports conducted by the independent investigators showed that Dr. Spaletta has fully implemented local policy and both state and federal expectations as mandated by law. The unfounded allegations and lies by these three disgruntled former employees have cost Cobre CSD taxpayers money, time, and resources. Ultimately, the time has been stolen from our Cobre students as the Superintendent's focus was taken away from the most important task, which involves leading the improvement of Cobre student achievement and advocating for opportunities for Cobre students and community.

It is also important to note that lies have consequences. Not only have these disgruntled employees caused a heavy financial burden to Cobre CSD and taken away the focus from the students' education, but these disgruntled employees potentially may face their own legal issues for ethical misconduct. NMPED has ethical standards for educators that if violated can result in the educator's losing his teaching license and credentials. Two of the educators that made these false allegations against the Superintendent, have failed to cooperate with investigators, failed to show up to their interviews to substantiate their allegations, and have refused to make a verbal or written statement. The third disgruntled former Cobre CSD employee was granted a formal Board hearing where he failed to provide any evidence to support his claim of workplace harassment or retaliation. His claims were all based on how upset he was that the Superintendent was holding him accountable to his job description. Lastly, claims made in the letter to the Board and state officials by these and other disgruntled current and former Cobre employees not only lacked merit but also failed to name any specific staff member.

Dr. Spaletta was reinstated by the Board on January 31, 2023 after multiple investigations found there was no evidence supporting any of the allegations that were made against him. On March 27, 2023, after the Cobre Board's Executive Session, the Board issued three separate letters stating that those investigations had been concluded and that neither of the claims for harassment, discrimination, or retaliation were substantiated by the investigators and no relief was to be granted to any of the complainants. Up to this point, Dr. Spaletta has been fully exonerated from the false claims made against him. Throughout the process, Dr. Spaletta maintained that all his actions followed his duties and responsibilities as the Superintendent and were made after conferring with the Board.

Yet all these claims have not come without a cost. Many of the staff members involved in filing these false claims against Dr. Spaletta and the Cobre School District have taken FMLA leave for the rest of the year or have already resigned. It is very likely that those individuals who filed false claims and fabricated allegations against Dr. Spaletta and the District will be held accountable, including the possibility of filing letters to the PED requesting revoking of licensures for their ethical misconduct or even the Superintendent pursuing legal action and punitive damages for the disgruntled employee's lies and defamatory remarks. These false allegations have cost the Superintendent and District time and money that required funding for multiple investigations, legal fees, lost grant opportunities for Cobre due to the mayhem triggered by these disgruntled employees. Lastly, Cobre CSD lost over $200,000 earlier this month that was previously earmarked by state officials for the safety and security of a Cobre school because the state believes that the District is not in control of its affairs. Further, the mayhem these lies have cost includes loss of trust from constituents in the community regarding their school officials as evident in the signs picketing the Board meetings and letters to local media.

Nevertheless, the CSD Superintendent and Board are committed to moving the District forward by supporting students, teachers, and staff. In response, Dr. Spaletta has been actively recruiting new staff and personnel who are eager to make a difference for Cobre CSD students and the community. At this time, over 100 stakeholders have come together to work on the strategic plan and have fully participated in meetings to help best align bond funds to District needs. Dr. Spaletta has received a positive evaluation from the Board for the work he was able to complete this year despite the distractions. With the Board's unwavering support, Dr. Spaletta remains steadfast and undeterred in his commitment to implement the vision he was hired to lead, will continue to work hard to improve the educational outcomes for Cobre students at all levels, and will expect the best from himself and his staff to get the best for the Cobre community he is honored to serve.

Press Release
For over four months, Cobre Consolidated School District and Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Spaletta have been the subject of multiple investigations into unfounded and unsubstantiated complaints and grievances filed by employees of the District. These false accusations were filed in an attempt to tarnish the reputation of Superintendent Spaletta for uncovering and addressing a culture of workplace unaccountability that had taken root at Cobre Schools. With the full support of the current Cobre School Board, Dr. Spaletta has cooperated with these investigators to completely exonerate his name and has now rededicated his efforts into implementing his post-entry plan and vision for Cobre Schools. Addressing these false allegations has taken time and money away from the business of the District and those responsible may be subject to additional legal matters for their actions. Regardless, Dr. Spaletta's mission as Superintendent of Cobre CSD remains steadfast. His advocacy for improving the education of Cobre students and leadership in filling recent administrative and teaching vacancies with dedicated staff committed to excellence serve as big steps forward in rebuilding the trust between the District and the Cobre community. Dr. Spaletta publicly wishes to thank the Cobre School Board for their transparency and due diligence throughout this process and the Cobre staff and community members who stood by him and are ready to expect the best for their students.

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