By Margaret Hopper
Monday, October 14, 2013, the Cobre school board met at the Hurley Elementary Library. Four board members were physically present, Toy Sepulveda, president, Frank Cordova, Robert Montoya and Frank Gomez, members, and Robert Mendoza, superintendent. They set up a phone line so Frances Kelly could respond from Houston. The meeting began about 7:25 p.m.
Sepulveda said the closed session had begun earlier at 6:05 p.m. when they had discussed student identifiable information, limited personnel and pending litigation. No decisions had been made. The first action the board took was to officially accept a donation of $10,000 from Freeport McMoRan which Superintendent Mendoza thought was an annual gift, and he said it was for student travel and expenses for competitions.
An early request of use of facilities was from the Vietnam Veterans of America, #358, who planned to hold a basketball tournament on Saturday, January 11, 2014. Another use of facilities request came from the Grant County Grapplers Junior Wrestling Club for gym use on November 4, which was also approved.
Mendoza called on Frank Ryan, financial agent, to explain the budget transfers for Operations. Ryan said this was necessitated by the lower enrollment in Cobre Schools, which found too many people hired for the lesser number of students, and the reworking of the budget was now necessary. Ryan said the work had been finished and was on the proper PED (Public Education Department) forms and ready for approval. The board approved the new budget work.
Under Superintendent’s Report, Hurley Principal Margaret Keeler welcomed the board’s visit and introduced three fourth-grade students who read reports they had written on some of their Common Core subjects. Allen Maciel reported on an imagined survival situation; Emily Esquedes read her paper mentioning agriculture and energy issues. Madelyn Reyes spoke on foods, oils, cooking, vegetables and nutrition.
Maciel also demonstrated ‘facts’ about world population with a dimensional figure, which told of the population numbers and what fractions were well or poorly fed, and those starving. Mendoza asked the students to introduce their parents and to remember the field trips, which had yielded the information they were using in their Common Core reports.
Mendoza told of the rent for the sub-lease of a portable building, $900 a month for three months. The board voted to allow the contract to go through as outlined in the letter from the City of Bayard, with the district supplying the temporary building. Early dismissals this week include one on Wednesday, October 16, for staff development and another on Friday for Homecoming. Students will be fed lunch before being sent home.
The student body representative Emanuel Reynolds said there was confusion over facts about subjects and grades needed for some graduating seniors, as well as scores for passing, within Common Core guidelines. Mendoza said administrators were preparing an outline to help students with this information.
Sepulveda said one problem facing the school was the federal shutdown, which was creating problems with their financial arrangements: under the rules, the school had to spend its money first, and then wait for reimbursements, but with the shutdown, there was a delay getting the funds back, and not much to guarantee when they would receive it. He cautioned the board that this must be carefully handled, and he didn’t know how long the district could work this way if reimbursements were slow coming back.
During Public Input, one parent asked about hiring additional teachers for Hurley’s fourth-fifth grade split class and another fifth-sixth grade split. Mendoza said the problem was not easily resolved under present rules, although he had looked into hiring aides. One factor, like hiring a substitute for 26 or 27 consecutive hours, would trigger a mandate for that person to be offered $10,000 of insurance the district must pay for. A further issue was that after the insurance offer, a person might simply take the insurance and refuse to work further, creating more budget problems for the district. He said the rules were complex and solutions were not as easy as they looked on the surface.
Another request about some ‘great, motivating programs for students’ was met with similar explanations. They called for higher standards of reading for children, with 30 minutes of reading at home each night, but the cost of $275 or more per student for record keeping and implementation was not something they could easily budget and pay out. Still, they would look into it, Mendoza said.
Another person said that those notes from home saying the child had done the 30 minute reading were impressive, but she was sure some were just paper, not fact, and some children had made no gains as a result. With Common Core standards requiring second graders to read two books each day and to report on them, as well, a teacher concluded that it was a great idea, but it might not be successfully done in all cases. The extra reading, when it WAS done, was beneficial, she said.
A board retreat is planned for Monday, October 21 and Tuesday, October 22 in the afternoons. The principals would be joining the board on the second afternoon.
The meeting adjourned after 8:20 a.m.