Puerto Rico Education, Public Safety Secretaries Resign - NBC Bay Area
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Puerto Rico Education, Public Safety Secretaries Resign

Education Secretary Julia Keleher, who was appointed in December 2016, stepped down on Monday. Public Safety Secretary Hector Pesquera, appointed in April 2017, is expected to resign by month's end

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    Puerto Rico Education, Public Safety Secretaries Resign
    TNS via Getty Images
    In this file photo, students arrived at Rosa Costa Valdivieso, a public middle school in the town of Yabucoa for the first day of classes almost a year after Hurricane Maria passed through Puerto Rico, devastating the island, on August 13, 2018.

    Two of Puerto Rico's most high-profile government officials are resigning following heavy criticism by residents of the U.S. territory over how they performed their jobs.

    Education Secretary Julia Keleher, who was appointed in December 2016, stepped down on Monday. Public Safety Secretary Hector Pesquera, appointed in April 2017, is expected to resign by month's end.

    Dennise Perez, spokeswoman for Gov. Ricardo Rossello, said she did not immediately have further details.

    Keleher oversaw the closure of more than 400 schools to save millions of dollars as Puerto Rico continues to see a sharp drop in enrollment amid a 12-year recession. In the past three decades, school enrollment has dropped 42 percent, and an additional 22 percent drop is expected in upcoming years, according to a report by the Boston Consulting Group.

    Puerto Rico's Association of Teachers at the time backed the most recent closures, but then joined teachers and parents who complained that transportation logistics and the needs of special education students were not considered.

    Aida Diaz, the association's president, told The Associated Press that she is not surprised by Keleher's resignation.

    "She has created chaos," Diaz said.

    Some, however, have praised Keleher for overhauling what many considered an agency long known for its bureaucracy. She was also preparing to create charter schools and vouchers as ordered by Rossello in March 2018. Puerto Rico currently has 1,110 public schools and some 319,000 students.

    Meanwhile, a police officers' union celebrated the upcoming resignation of Pesquera, a former FBI special agent in charge of Puerto Rico who also once served as the island's police chief.

    Pesquera oversaw the Department of Public Safety, a new agency created by the governor just months before Hurricane Maria hit in September 2017. Pesquera was later widely criticized for how he handled the aftermath of the Category 4 storm and the nearly 3,000 estimated deaths it caused.

    "That resignation should have happened a long time ago," said Gregorio Matias, vice president of the Association of Organized Police. He added that police officers are demanding more benefits such as disability insurance and better pensions.

    Pesquera and Keleher did not return messages for comment.