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Silver School Board hears in depth report on Sixth Street Elementary

By Margaret Hopper

October 17, 2013, the Silver School Board met at the district office on Swan. At the 5 p.m. work session, Lisa Ortega, Sixth Street principal, went over an in depth report for the board members. She gave them fact sheets, goals and plans, pages of test results, and photos of student placements and notes of kindness encouragements on some wall areas.

Some of the facts the community might find interesting are that students attending include 38 El Grito Headstart children, 31 kindergarten, 29 first, 18 second grade, 17 third, 17 fourth, 18 fifth and 9 self-contained special ed students. Thirty-two students receive some special ed services. Because of the high poverty rate at Sixth Street, the school is designated a Title 1 School-wide School. With the 38 Headstart children, the count is 182.

Ortega said one goal was to get all parents to attend the conferences, and in September, every child was represented by a parent, for 100 percent attendance. Ortega said in a few
Instances, a parent said there was no transportation, but the school found someone who went for that parent at the last minute, and they had remarkable participation.

Ortega’s Program Overview included detailed information on the reading and math plans. The test profiles were also on reading and math. The 2012-2013 activities were listed, with the present year’s activities broken into grade level plans and field trips.

Superintendent Lon Streib reported on Common Core as it is being developed in the district. One handout to the board was a listing of shifts, or changes, in the new program, with special emphasis on language arts and math. Another paper had a dozen key acronyms and their meanings listed, along with definitions for terms and explanations of shifts assumed to be taking place from the old standards.

Streib noted that Common Core is a done-deal for the state of New Mexico and the printed materials promise important improvement over the old Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind programs. Teachers are presently worried over evaluations on their work, but Gus Benakis and Trish Martinez, assistant superintendents, say the process is off to a good start in the district. Beth Lougee, high school principal, agreed that results were good and teachers could relax. Streib said a teacher’s job was to do a good job daily and the results, after 177 days, would be good.

Regarding the recent visit of Keith Harris and his speech at an event in Silver City a few days ago, Streib said he was concerned. If the program was in its first year, how could Harris know about class length and lower standards, and reduced parental contacts in the future? What about The List of approved readings? Streib said the list didn’t matter in this district. Teachers were supposed to use common sense and come up with their own.

Yes, there would be bumps, but New Mexico is already obligated and it is important to reassure parents and students about Common Core. A lie is a lie, he said, and such comments were not true of teachers in this district. Asked if there should be a counter effort to change the perception Harris had given, Streib said it was pointless to pick a fight; probably not that many people had read the article.

The workshop portion ended at 5:55 and after a brief break, reconvened at 6:05 for the more public session.

First on the agenda in the second portion was Annalisa Banegas-Peña who spoke during the first public input time. Banegas-Peña outlined her educational accomplishments and many years of experience in education, then told the board about her nephew, Caleb, a former student in Silver District who had recently graduated—or didn’t graduate, it seems—after great efforts on his part.

As a special education student, she outlined Caleb’s successful efforts to enter college and make a career of his athletic abilities, until it was learned he was two credits short. How could such mistakes be made? How could they not be caught? Banegas-Peña said five other students had problems of their own and the story was similar for them. Dreams were shattered.  

Streib asked the board to read over the resolution they had received three weeks earlier at the Reserve meeting and be able to respond to it at the November board meeting. Members agreed it should be on the next agenda.

Another board issue, New Mexico School Board Association’s on-line opportunity for training, was discussed. They had a choice of leadership or self-evaluation topics, and they could do it individually, at home, or as a group at a central location. Other discussion was that it was an all-or-nothing effort; it wouldn’t help much if someone didn’t do the work and the others did. Streib said he would get more information so the session could be scheduled.

Items for the consent agenda included approval of the checks written for the past month. Those amounted to $896,012.55. Other items were the $10,000 check received from Freeport McMoRan, which Candy Milam said would be used for student transportation, and a list of CDL drivers Benakis had submitted. These were approved with a single vote.
Regarding the two board members who do the oversight on the checks, Egan and Streib said they would look at a different format to get information out and working. If a better plan comes up, the board will adjust the procedure.

Also approved were the graduation dates for Cliff, Silver and Opportunity School. There was discussion about the traditional third week of May and the problem of graduating on Sunday. One idea was that if students were graduated before the state tournaments, there could be questions about whether they really were students at that point. Comment was that the dates should be finalized now because of shortness of time, but to plan this farther ahead for the next year.

What to do with surplus property? It was decided to send a list to the state auditor and get the approval to advertise the auction. “Things look better on paper than they do on inspection,” someone quipped. “Let’s hope we can finish the job in November before it gets too cold to do it.”   The open session adjourned at 7:10 and the closed session began.

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