Valencia principal suspended

Mike Linn

A Portales school principal has been suspended for improper distribution of the New Mexico Writing Assessment, a school official said Thursday.
David VanWettering, principal of Valencia Elementary, has been suspended for an undisclosed amount of time for distributing the assessment to his teachers too early, Portales School Board President David Brooks said.
“David (VanWettering) is very professional, and this was probably just an oversight,” Brooks said.
Brooks said he doesn’t believe VanWettering gave the teachers the tests early so they could prepare the students prior to the test.
What probably happened, Brooks said, is that teachers asked for the assessment and VanWettering complied, not thinking he was distributing the test too early.
Brooks said a similar case involving a different Portales principal occurred several years ago. That principal was suspended as well, Brooks said.
Portales School Superintendent Jim Holloway is in the hospital recovering from knee surgery and was unable to comment Thursday.
Murphy Quick, the school’s finance director, said the issue was a personnel matter and he would not comment.
Quick said he called VanWettering and informed him the Portales News-Tribune was seeking comment. VanWettering, whose telephone number is not listed, did not contact the paper before deadline.
The New Mexico Writing Assessment is a state performance evaluation exam distributed to fourth-, sixth- and eighth-grade students, Quick said.
The test is broken up into three sections and takes three days to complete, Brooks said. The first day students pick a topic from three options. The following day the students have approximately 1 1/2 hours to write on the topic chosen. The final day is reserved for editing and rewriting, Brooks said.
“The students try to think about (their topic) and maybe research a little bit if they need to, particularly those younger kids, the fourth graders,” Brooks said.
Brooks said fourth-grade students were scheduled to take the test on Thursday but school was canceled due to weather. He said the students will most likely complete a portion of the assessment today.
The assessment is graded by teachers not employed by Portales Municipal Schools. The test is graded for spelling, grammar and thought process, Brooks said.