A fired coach, blotched ballots and Halloween festivities


- 10 YEARS AGO - 'Public support strong for fired coach', Oct. 25, 2007, By Chandra Johnson and Gabe Toth

We've seen this game before.

In October 2007, a few dozen Taoseños turned up to defend Rick Apodaca, a Taos High School teacher and basketball coach who was fired without cause a precious few weeks before the start of the basketball season.

Apodaca was put on leave early in the month. He was officially fired Oct. 17. The community turned out at a Taos Municipal Schools board meeting Oct. 23 and reactions were overwhelmingly in Apodaca's favor.

"There is not a single negative thing I can say about this man," said then-basketball player Jim Armijo Jr.

By the night of the contentious meeting, district officials had not given a reason for Apodaca's firing, though the "general consensus" among athletes, cheerleaders, parents, students and community members was that Apodaca had lost receipts, which school employees must keep on file.

For several years, Apodaca had used receipts from a Subway restaurant as a way to keep tabs on the amount of money being spent on athletes' food. The system wasn't up to par for accounting purposes and district officials eventually concluded the coach had been submitting false vouchers.

The timetable for Apodaca's firing was one of the major sticking points for those people involved with high school athletics, whether as a player ready to compete, a parent in the stands or an administrator looking over the season's budget and chances of winning.

"We're two weeks from practice, so time's not in our favor," said Jim Branch, athletic director at the time.

And while a search committee for a new coach was announced by the district - with students and other coaches getting a relatively big say in the selection - the idea was scrapped by the next week's board meeting, setting off critiques of apparent cronyism.

In the years since, some of the most well-attended school board meetings have been those dealing with the employment of sports staff.

- 25 YEARS AGO - 'Voters prepare for paper revolution', Oct. 29, 1992

The integrity of our voting system might be a hot-button issue in 2017 because of stories of Russian hacking and Facebook ads, but 25 years ago, the topic of the day was the switch from voting machines to paper ballots.

The Taos News ran a special section ahead of that year's elections. On the front page was a story explaining how to use the new paper ballots. There was a "broken arrow" next to each candidate, and voters had to fill in the arrow to indicate their choice.

"Back in the third grade, you'll remember the place for the pencil mark was a small dot. The ballots offer a new twist: the broken arrow. [Your] job as Super Voter is to repair the arrow so that it points fearlessly at your choice of candidates," the news story read.

But when Election Day came around, confusion did abound.

The county clerk's office instructed the public to use pencils to cast their ballot leading up to the election, but handed out pens. That moved forced some voters to question whether their votes were actually getting tallied.

The company in charge of the ballots confirmed the next day that pens would work just as well as pencils. But that design feature didn't mean a smooth election. Nearly 25 percent of ballots had to be counted by hand because the machine couldn't read them.

In 2014, voters got worried when they were instructed to use neither pens nor pencils - but permanent markers - to fill in the ovals on their ballots. The markers bled through the page, but officials said the machines were a bit more advanced and could account for the errant blotches.

Considering voting is still handled at the most local of levels, even basic functions of a ballot - for the voter to effectively communicate their choice and for the machine to understand - continues to be of the greatest importance.

- 50 YEARS AGO - 'What could be more fun than Halloween?' Oct. 26, 1967

Literally nothing.

The Taos News ran a photo of kids gearing up for Halloween, which, arguably, is the best time of year because of all the pumpkins, scary stories, folk tales and chances to get dressed up and decked out in our wildest versions of ourselves.

"Witches, goblins, black cats and jack-o-lanterns are among the motifs in imaginative masks made by Mrs. John Hobb's second grade class at Taos Elementary School. Intent on examples of their bewitchery are, standing left to right, Melissa Frank and Louis Gutierrez; seated, Christopher Ortega, Glenda Green, Frankie Martinez and Judith Cantu."

Yes, that's our very own Judi Cantu, now a town of Taos councilor.