Katko asks for calm

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By Carol A. Clark

Expressing concern for the escalating anger surrounding why, and whether, he’s losing his job, Mountain Principal Mike Katko is asking people to remember the children.

In a letter he delivered to the Monitor, Katko tells community members that he harbors “no ill will towards anyone.”

“I am completely overwhelmed by the letters, e-mails, hugs and tears I have received these past few weeks. I am doing well and feel nothing but gratitude and a sense of being blessed and highly favored … I am hoping that we can remain positive for the children of our great community.”

Talk of Katko losing his job has simmered for weeks. It came to a boil one morning in late March after several calls came into the Monitor from individuals anxious to know whether Katko’s job was in jeopardy.

The school board met twice the night before in closed session and discussion of personnel matters topped both agendas.

Denials did not surface during calls placed from the Monitor to Katko, a school board member or the superintendent.

“It’s a personnel matter and I cannot comment,” School Board member Jody Benson said that morning.

“I don’t want to discuss my particular case until I’ve had a chance to sit down with the superintendent,” Katko had said.

“I haven’t reviewed personnel evaluations yet and I usually don’t make these decisions until April,” Superintendent Mary McLeod had said and added, “But we really can’t comment on personnel manners anyway.”

Parents made a brief appearance at Tuesday’s school board meeting to show support for Katko. Katko’s sister, Mary Katko, and future Mountain parent Jennifer Stradling unveiled a large banner filled with children’s signatures and well wishes for Katko.

Parent Stacy Stubben told board members 150 signatures had been gathered on petitions at a booth at Film Festival and several more were circulating around town.

“We want to encourage anyone who hasn’t signed a petition of support for Mr. Katko to stop by the Film Festival to do so,” said Stubben during an interview Wednesday. “Petitions will be available at the Film Festival through 11 a.m. Monday.”

Stubben and others then intend to gather all of the petitions from around town and deliver them to McLeod at her office.

Katko has 17 years in education. Four years as principal of Mountain, six as principal and another seven in schools throughout New Mexico.

He is credited with knowing every student’s name and for welcoming each of them to school most mornings. A number of parents have spoken of Katko’s help to their families. Staff members also praise Katko and are signing petitions.

One staff member, who asked not to be named, said Katko was a wonderful boss and expressed puzzlement he would be asked to leave.

Nobody seems to know specifics but during numerous interviews conducted by the Monitor, the source of trouble for Katko appears to stem from a couple of teachers pushing for his removal.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com or (505) 662-4185. Read her blog at www.newsextras.wordpress.com.