Zuni district puts superintendent on leave

Zuni, New Mexico (AP) 1-09

The Zuni schools superintendent is on paid leave after being accused of misconduct.

The Zuni school board and its attorneys met for more than five hours behind closed doors Jan. 13 discussing a notice of possible action by the state Public Education Department against Superintendent Kaye Peery, the Gallup Independent reporte.

The department’s ethics bureau during December notified Peery it was considering suspending or revoking her licenses because of allegations including hiring friends for administrative positions they weren’t qualified for, not requiring adequate background checks for some employees, giving large raises to close associates, hiring a friend with a felony conviction, failing to keep proper financial records, misuing federal and private grant money and using district vehicles, gasoline and travel expense money for personal use.

Peery has denied the allegations and has asked the Public Education Department for administrative hearing. The department has not set a date, Beverly Friedman, a spokeswoman for the agency, said Jan. 15.


Since Peery was hired, school board expenses have run about $30,000 a year and each board member has received a cell phone, a laptop and a printer to use, the notice said.

Peery refused to comment after the closed meeting. School board members reconvened in a brief open session, placed Peery on leave, decided she must pay for her own attorney, appointed elementary school principal Caroline Ukestine as acting superintendent and adjourned.

About 125 teachers, staff members, parents and community members had waited throughout the closed and open sessions, and some yelled questions about Peery’s leave as board members left. Several board members responded that she would be paid while on leave.

Former Zuni district employee Ric Laseute, in an interview with the newspaper, noted the pueblo struggled years ago to break away from the Gallup-McKinley County school district and create its own.

Laseute said Zunis need to take more responsibility for their schools, while retired engineer Clifford Mahooty was upset the Zuni Tribal Council is not taking an active role in the district crisis.

“They’re not using their sovereign right,” he said, adding that Gov. Norman J. Cooeyate has more power than he’s using.

“This is a sovereign nation,” Mahooty said. “He has every right to throw the superintendent out.”