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New Mexico Names Leader of Indigenous Education Reform
In this Sept. 9, 2019, file photo, New Mexico Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart speaks about the challenges at the state's public schools during an interview in his office in Santa Fe, N.M. AP Photo/Morgan Lee

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Former Navajo Nation legislative staffer LaShawna Tso has been selected to lead New Mexico's Indian Education division.

The announcement by the Public Education Department follows a months-long search. Tso will fill a key role in a state where 11% of the population is Native American.

"There were many fine candidates for this position, and it was a hard process, but we know we found the best candidate for the job, and we're thrilled to welcome her aboard," Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said.

As assistant secretary of Indian Education, Tso will oversee New Mexico's compliance with a court order that stems from a sweeping lawsuit that accused the state of failing to provide a sound education to vulnerable children from minority communities, non-English speaking households, impoverished families and students with disabilities.

A judge dismissed Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's motion to dismiss the lawsuit in June, ruling that the state has not implemented the necessary reforms to provide an adequate education to Native Americans and other students.

Tso will lead policy development and monitor reforms that will require coordination with entities ranging from the Legislature to school boards around the state and tribal governments.

Tso previously served as the chief of staff in the Navajo Nation's Office of the Speaker, where she specialized in policy development and intergovernmental issues.