By Margaret Hopper
The Silver School Board met Thursday, March 20, 2014, at the Administrative office on Swan with the work session opening at 5:00 p.m. Arnold Torres, Tony Egan, Trent Petty and Deborah Eggleston were there at the beginning or shortly after, and the fifth member, Chris Arvidson, came before 7:00. High school principal Beth Lougee and her assistant, Marcella Marquez, presented the board with a one-page report on enrollment, graduation rates, ACT scores, honors classes, dual credit work and discipline facts.
ACT scores are running a point or two behind national averages, with a boost in the local average in 2013. Local graduation rates are running higher than the New Mexico average, and discipline incidents appear to be reduced. Lougee noted that this year's 148 seniors may be replaced by 210 8th graders who will be freshmen next year. The curriculum is moving into a more vocational track, with culinary arts and auto mechanics, computer skills and journalism/publishing gaining perception.
Petty noted that in a recent talk with John Brack of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., Brack told him there was still a large gap between high school preparation and solid jobs in the industry.
Petty asked Lougee if that gap was being addressed and could be closed. Co-op was further discussed as a work program that led in this direction, and Lougee said students who were in it needed to verify their pay stubs, hours and credits to help bridge this gap, but that many other factors were also involved. She hoped they could close that gap.
Lon Streib, superintendent, asked Lougee to involve him and others who could help.
There was discussion on rescheduling the next board meeting, which would normally be held on April 17. A number of ideas were considered, for board availability. The final choice was to have the board meeting on April 24 and budget work sessions on May 2 and 3 to finish that part. Milam is waiting for state information to finish the budget.
For the 6 p.m. session, a large number of people came in. At the first Citizen's Input, many asked for more information before actions were taken, mentioning Mrs. Hogan, principal at Harrison Schmidt and David Lougee, principal at Stout. Mrs. Hogan has already been replaced next year with formerly retired John Carter, a shock to some who didn't yet know Mrs. Hogan's contract had not been renewed. Carter and Victor Oaxaca, presently a math teacher who will move into the assistant principal/athletic director position with part, then full-time work later, were introduced as replacements earlier.
More than 30 parents and supporters asked for more warning and a chance for input on issues that they said were upsetting their children who loved their principals. One noted that testing was being done, and children were in no shape to take on the extra stress. Eva
Fisher, speaking for supporters of Mrs. Hogan, said there was little or no warning of this,
and she hoped these changes were not being taken lightly, as they affected a large number of people, especially the children. Unless the reasons for removal were compelling, the board should consider a slower process with more community input. Another person said it appeared the world is run by a vocal minority. Many asked for better communications.
Petty said the board thought it was doing better, and had put more communications into its phone system, board meeting reports in the Grant County Beat and letters being sent home. He said the board would put more effort into the communications work. They could use the automated phone system to remind people of board meetings, too. Streib said he was trying to hold to facts but rumor and innuendo were a serious factor. He also told those who had asked for information by phone earlier that he would be available to them tomorrow, Friday, March 21, in his office.
On a different issue, another parent asked if there could be a different solution to her son's truancy. She said she had no problem with the school's stand on attendance, but when her 14-year-old failed to wake up and get to school on time in her temporary absence, she learned that the work in classes he missed could not be made up, detention and social sanctions couldn't be applied, and there was no other attempt to help him remediate other than wait for enough truancies to initiate legal intervention. The parent asked if there could be a more reasonable approach to help kids take responsibility. She was willing to partner with the school, but thought the present policy didn't meet the need.
Justin Wecks, Silver City Education Association representative, said negotiations on the contracts were going well but the committee was waiting on more budget information that only Candy Milam could supply. (As noted earlier, that work will extend into a board workshop on May 2 and 3.) Wecks alerted the board that a vintage movie, "Salt of the Earth," had been screened again and a number of people in nearby states were interested in this drama that had ties to a mine strike near Bayard and a tunnel in Hurley. Local mayors were promoting the event.
In the action agenda, Milam reported no budget adjustments, no bids or proposals, but checks had been written in the sum of $2,427,568.30 for the month of February and Albertson's had written a check of $1000 for Harrison Schmitt Elementary. These items were voted on and accepted by the board.
The board reorganization left Petty as president, Torres as vice president, but Eggleston insisted that someone else take the secretarial position. She nominated Tony Egan and the others voted him in.
Trish Martinez, assistant superintendent, explained the Instructional Materials Adoption Process that the state was requesting, and the board voted for that. In another action, the board approved a request for leave of absence for a custodian, which would last two months, beginning March 28, 2014.
The board met in closed session to discuss limited personnel matters with the understanding that no decisions would be made. The adjournment was postponed until the closed session ended, but those attending left at about 7:15 when the closed session was to begin. Next meeting will be at the Administrative Office on April 24. Work session will begin at 5 p.m., the action session will begin at 6 p.m.