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Silver School Board meeting held in high school Little Theater to accommodate expected crowd

By Margaret Hopper

The Silver school board moved its July 17 meeting into the district's Little Theater at the high school to accommodate more people. Hearing that people wanted more space than the administrative offices would hold, the board gave notice that it would use the theater, which holds over 200 in more comfortable seating. All four board members were present. The vacancy left by Debbie Eggleston has been advertised, and according to board secretary Sandra Estrada, action will be taken by Wednesday, July 23, to fill the space.

The early session began at 5:05 p.m. Frida Gonzalez and Margaret Begay informed the board of the Aztec, New Mexico project, which is gaining attention across the state as a better plan for handling juveniles at risk who also have scholastic needs. Called Grade Court, the program enlists local judges who will meet with juveniles every two weeks to monitor their progress in academic subjects and assist with counseling.

 

According to Begay, 6th graders and up are targeted with the hope of helping them move successfully into high school without delays. There are daily and weekly assignment sheets, which teachers and parents are to initial after reviewing student work to keep them on track. The pilot work in Silver began this January and reviewers felt there was enough success to enlarge the program at Silver.

Under the superintendent's report, student handbooks are being reviewed. High school principal Beth Lougee and the new athletic director, Victor Oaxaca, told of the work now underway to bring staff and students' handbooks, and the coaches and athletic handbook
to a finished state for the coming year. Candy Milam reported on the SBA test results for the past year, which said in the grades tested, 3 through 12, except for Opportunity School scores, Silver's students were above the state average in reading and math, except for 8th grade work, which was three percent below the state average in one area and one percent below average in the other.

The board's five goals for student improvement in the coming year were discussed in greater depth during the first session, but Superintendent Lon Streib mentioned them briefly in the second and remarked that the technology goal had received a great boost with the donation of many used computers, some quite unique in their capabilities, coming out of Sandia Laboratories. The savings from this gift alone is a huge boost. The other four goals included attendance rates, student behaviors, curriculum development and career readiness.

Parents and community should pay special attention to the fifth item, career readiness. It mentions developing and planning an innovative curriculum, which combines academic instruction, career training, and structured work experiences designed to bridge the classroom learning and workplace skills as measured by a board-adopted plan. More specific information should be available on this one shortly. It could be worth a special report on its own merits. Do watch for it.

The first session was adjourned about 5:40.

During the entire first session, people drifted into the Little Theater at regular intervals, gradually building the numbers for the second session, which was to begin at 6:00 p.m. Before the 5:00 meeting began, sign carriers patrolled the parking space, offering messages, which implied that teachers cared about children but the board and some administrators didn't. Another theme was the waste of money the board was spending for legal counsel. By the time the second session began, at 6:05, some 60 or more community people settled into the theater seats, some intent on being speakers during the public input period, others perhaps just curious to see what was developing.

One addition at the board's table was their Albuquerque counsel, Ramon Vigil. Also present, at the back of the room, were two city police officers. Their squad car was parked visibly just in front of the theater entrance. Other notable persons attending included some of the former teachers, who had resigned at mid-term or later. Persons who intended to speak during the meeting were asked to sign and turn in a Citizens' Inquiries/ Public Comments Form, which asked for their name, date and address, as well as a place to write public comments.

When the meeting began, Streib asked that two items be removed from the agenda; both were requests for boundary agreement approval with Animas and Lordsburg. These were tabled until the August meeting. Board president Trent Petty then recounted the ground rules for the citizens' inquiries portion: the board would allow a total of 30 minutes; no speaker was to take more than three minutes.

Sharon Bookwalter praised the school website but asked that the District Policy Manual be followed in that the community be informed of all business matters, all expenditures, and all financial statements. These should be made available and sent to all newspapers in town, on a regular basis, plus other pertinent material.

Former superintendent Dick Pool said he would address the topic of fair and equal treatment, as stated in the employee handbook. He spoke of an issue in which a custodian was upgraded without the input of Barry Ward or Gus Benakis, and of the extra cost. Warned that he was down to thirty seconds, Pool assured the board he would be back for another three minutes next month, or for as long as it took, until he got his message out.

Nancy Stevens voiced concern that so many had resigned from Stout, and that the board refused to listen to grievances. Kimberly Chase asked for the recall of the board and demanded that the board hear their grievances. Linda Pafford charged that the board had hired an unvetted superintendent and listed a number of inappropriate behaviors some administrators had been accused of. Kristen Warnak cited Appendix A of the Code of Ethics and said she asked for fairness.

When the 30 minutes were up, the board went into its agenda without comment. Streib rather quickly outlined the Grade Court work of Begay and Gonzalez, the handbook work and the five goals for the 2014-2015 school year. The only assistant superintendent to ask for board action was Candy Milam. The board approved her expenses for June, which amounted to $3,946,513.30. She said the large amount was needed to finish contracts and get the fiscal budget completed for the ending year.

As the board had omitted the second reading of proposed revisions of policy advisories numbers 108 through 111, Streib went back and included them, also briefly. Milam made another quick report on recent collective bargaining results that she said had been successful.

Justin Wecks, Silver City Education Association representative, commented on the grievances and said they would be advanced to the state labor board, as the local board had thus far refused to hear them. He decried the needless squandering of school funds on legal fees, the atmosphere of fear, and again requested a special session for solutions, which he said he had asked for from the very beginning.

One of the last items was a request for a year's leave of absence, outlined by Streib for an unnamed person. The board approved it. Some people asked for a second citizens' inquiry period, noting that it was not on this agenda. Petty said no, that wouldn't happen. The board adjourned at 6:40 and prepared to go into executive session for limited personnel, topics H-2 through H-9 and other business.

The August meeting is scheduled for the third Thursday, starting with the 5:00 work session and followed by the 6:00 p.m. general session.

**************

In a later call by the Beat to board president Petty, he said he could report a decision the board had made after the closed session. He said he had made a motion that a non-quorum of two members, (himself and Tony Egan), with Superintendent Streib and legal counsel Ramon Vigil, meet with a similar number of Silver City Education Association representatives to see if communications could be opened between the two groups.

In the motion, Petty said he outlined the conditions, which would make the meeting acceptable under present law, and which would set up the requirements for future communications with the SCEA, from an angle that the law would allow. Petty said he believed that if proper ground rules were set up, communications could begin, and as long as the rules were observed, he thought progress could be made.

A few of the earlier attendees were still in the theater when the board returned to make and approve the motion. Then the board adjourned the meeting, as usual.

The next step, according to Petty, is for the SCEA to name its representatives and suggest a meeting time agreeable to both. To be effective, he said the first meeting should be held before school starts.

 

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