The Peñasco School Board placed its new superintendent on administrative leave after her son allegedly trespassed into several classrooms at Peñasco Elementary School.
The Board voted Feb. 12 to place Superintendent Lisa Hamilton on administrative leave for five days. Peñasco Middle/High School Principal Marina Lopez took over the duties of superintendent in Hamilton’s absence.
While the decision to place Hamilton on leave was made public, the reasoning behind it remained murky.
A New Mexico State Police District 7 report confirmed her son had used her master key Feb. 7 to enter classrooms and offices while there was no school.
Board President Amanda Bissell confirmed in an interview that students gaining access to Hamilton’s keys was the reason she was placed on leave.
When questioned during the Board’s Feb. 18 meeting, Hamilton said she had left her keys out and that students had used them to gain access to the building.
However, the report states that Hamilton said she gave her son the keys because he wanted to play basketball in the elementary school gymnasium.
He then proceeded, the report states, to use the master key to enter several different classrooms and offices, including that of Principal Aaron Mitchell. Her son, as well as another student, also allegedly took snacks and other food kept in some of the classrooms.
Hamilton, however, maintains that nothing illegal was done, because some teachers were still present on campus even though school was not in session.
“It’s not a criminal incident,” she said.
State Police Patrolman David Edmiston, who filed the report, wrote that the report was filed in regards to an alleged criminal trespass and that he informed Hamilton’s son why what he did was wrong.
“I informed (the student) as to the seriousness of his actions and why it was wrong to do what he did,” Edmiston wrote. “He understood everything I had told him.”
Bissell said the Board’s language specifying why Hamilton was placed on leave could be found in the Feb. 12 meeting minutes.
However, the minutes for that meeting were nowhere on Peñasco’s website. In fact, no past meeting agendas or minutes could be found on the website between Feb. 16 and March 3. Meetings and agendas are required under the New Mexico Open Meetings Act to be posted on a public entity’s websites.
Hamilton said the students, which would include her son, were disciplined for their actions, although the severity of their punishment remains unclear.
No charges were filed in relation to the trespassing.
Hamilton worked for the state Public Education Department before taking the top job in Peñasco for the 2019-2020 school year. Her contract is up for review in this month.
The Department is also currently conducting an investigation in regard to Hamilton’s educator license, according to Hamilton’s licensure page on the Department’s website. It is unclear if the trespassing is related to the investigation, since the Department does not divulge details about ongoing investigations.