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Silver Schools Board hears about Cliff School accomplishments and overall security improvements

By Margaret Hopper

The Silver school board made its annual trip to Cliff on Thursday, November 21. The meeting began at 5:40 p.m. with a motion to go into closed session to discuss limited personnel and possible litigation. The board returned to the open session at 6:08.

The Cliff Principal Surgeon gave a brief update on major accomplishments Cliff had seen in the 2012-2013 school year, listing its FFA as a qualifier at national competitions in landscaping, agriscience and horse events. In athletics, the boys’ baseball team was the state champion in its school size division; their boys’ track team was runner up.


In over all activities and athletics, New Mexico Athletic Association named Cliff the winner of the Directors Cup in the Class A division. Surgeon said this award was far more than any single championship; it represented a large number of events from the student body. Last year the state’s grade for the elementary was a B and the high school was also a B, just missing the A grade by seven-tenths of a point.

Surgeon listed a number of new accomplishments for the 2013-2014 year, citing increased bandwidth as a major upgrade that was helping teachers and students with their computer and Internet work. There is a new website, and at a recent auction in Reserve,
Cliff was able to buy a large number of band instruments at extremely low prices, as
Reserve phased out its band. Cliff also bought 25 computers from that auction and was able to repair some and trade others around to make changes in the local program.
Other things he reported on were attendance incentives for students at all grade levels, community attendances and 100 percent attendance at the elementary parent conferences.
The Literacy 1st program and elementary reading program were making good progress.

Silver’s new technology coordinator, Ben Potts, said the student information system was geared toward the Common Core changes, and the Pearson Powerschool equipment was in place that CC required. This meant report cards, transcripts and more to convert, and he and his crew had done it in a very short time. Expected time period was three months; they had it ready when school started in August, working hard for a month-and-a-half.

Some of the things he learned about the old conditions was that Silver needed to inventory everything; there were inconsistent purchases, unused and broken equipment, no way to check for stolen equipment or track it down; and there was need for remote controlling to help teachers solve problems, some while they were away at conferences.

Potts also told about the need for filtering, for virus protection, for email archives; for computer controls on safety issues; and a wide variety of coordination needs that were just now being implemented. Regarding compliance with the CC changes, district schools were at different places in preparedness. Some elementary schools were about 50 percent compliant; Cliff and Silver High were now 100 percent ready, but other grade schools were still at zero, needing a lot of work to be compliant by the end of the school year.

The problems at the high school were given priority, said Potts, because fixing some if its problems first made it possible to solve other problems for some of the other schools. Also, upgrading the labs in high school made it possible to switch equipment around and some of the schools benefited from equipment that came out of other schools' labs. With good inventory control, it was easy to see where to put the equipment that could be repaired and upgraded that was released from labs that were finally up to speed. The equipment meeting lesser needs was placed where demands were lower.

Potts outlined all the finances spent on these changes, showing where the money went, but what didn’t show on paper, he said, was that a lot of things were being recycled, holding down costs to the district. Potts said the work was efficient and expenses were reduced by what his crew had done to use everything possible. And, yes, some stolen equipment had been traced to the source and was being returned. He felt the effort spent on this kind of oversight would pay its way, reducing past inefficiencies.

Jason Wechs, union president, said there had been a new bargaining team this year and that the contracts, benefits and the rest of it were ready for a decision now. The board agreed that this round would have a decision at this meeting. (It passed.) Wechs said they would be working on 2014-2015 soon, starting in January.

In the superintendent’s report, Lon Streib talked about Literacy 1st and the training and coaching work that was still to be done. In the event of a senior’s failing to pass the state test, he said there were over a dozen ways to graduate and go on to college or trade schools. Principals were working with students to help them go through this.

Harrison Schmidt’s D grade as a school had also triggered an audit and other conditions that were taking place now with state people coming in. A number of reports would be due soon, with rebuttals and remediation plans to go out. The Independent School District resolution was also due at this meeting. Later in the evening the board approved it.

Assistant superintendent Gus Benakis said that after a year of working on security issues, the lock boxes with keys inside for getting first responders into school buildings was now a finished project. He showed a box to board members. He reported that other than Central Dispatch, no other people knew what the combinations would be, and that the first responders would have to phone that office to get the information to enter a school. Also, the maps, the labels and other security codes were all in place.

Assistant superintendent Candy Milam had a list of Budget Adjustment Requests and the October checks for the board to approve. Two BARs, regarding budget clean ups, left a zero balance for their requests, and Title XIX Medicaid showed a $50,000 shift due to anticipated revenues that would soon see amounts larger than the state would allow. A $6,382 shift on dual-credit instructional materials was needed. An initial allocation of  $591 for New Mexico-grown fruits and vegetables for student use came in. The list of October checks was $2,686,186.55, which Milam said included salaries and benefits, making the total more than usual. The board passed all of these and approved a bus driver Benakis had asked for.  

The meeting adjourned at about 7:30.

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