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Silver Schools Board Faces Potential Budget Shortfall with Decreased Attendance

By Margaret Hopper

The Silver Schools Board met August 21 at the Administrative Offices Building with a new member, Mike McMillan, seated at his first meeting. Other members present were Arnold Torres and Board President Trent Petty. Tony Egan was patched in by telephone during the second, more active session which began at 6:01 pm. Chris Arvidson was expected to come, but was not present by the end of that second session.

The work session began about 5:05 pm with information from Bianca Padilla and Tim Madrid of the Truancy Model and JPO programs. Padilla said her concern was more of cooperation with the schools, grades and attendance and tutoring, whereas Madrid's area was parental and home visits, contracts with the parents to improve with children's needs, and law enforcement measures. Pedilla stressed the absolute necessity of better skills at younger ages for children to succeed.

Superintendent Lon Streib gave the board information on the student enrollment number of 2903, which he said was down 88 from last year and which would remove about $600,000 from the present budget figures.



Other parts of Streib's report included improvement efforts over the summer and free breakfasts and lunches for all the elementary schools. He noted that Cliff, Silver High and La Plata Middle Schools did not have the free meals. The Back Pack program continued for supplying children weekend food, as volunteers continued to work with that, and he hoped children would return on Monday not hungry.

Beth Lougee, high school principal, told of improvements in the football locker room, recent painting and cleaning of storage rooms and classrooms, especially those where room assignments had been changed to put departments together for better communications. All but five rooms had been changed to make this plan possible. She credited help from JPO students to get this much done, as well as help with landscaping.

Instead of the former concessions area, a space had been converted to a salad bar setting with tables moved in where students could sit, said Lougee. They had eating "standing up" prevously. Provision was also made for students to buy some basic classroom necessities in another area while on campus.

Gus Benakis reported on work with the sheriff's department yesterday and city police earlier today regarding Active Shooter training, which was designed to keep students safer. Maps had been upgraded and the processes for intervention improved.

Trish Martinez finished out Streib's report with comments on the K-3Plus work over the summer which had 75 students for five weeks of additional work to boost elementary scores in reading and math. She and Gus Benakis had headed the project, and according to Martinez, they saw academic improvement in the students attending.

Candy Milam added that testing was being done in the first three weeks of school for better assessment of students for comparisons later. That was not possible last year, as the state permission came later. This early testing would give a truer picture of where kids were in their academic work

The first session adjourned at 5:45 pm, allowing a 15 minute break before the second session began. Petty called for the Public Comments when it reopened. Sharon Bookwalter told the board there was a difference between discussing issues and taking action on them. She said that state law did allow the board to discuss these things.

Dick Pool brought up the rumors that the budget was "in the hole." He said he had left the district with over a million dollars in reserves, and the board was to "let us know where the budget is in September." With the loss of 89 students, that could amount to serious deficits, and the district might be in serious trouble.

Frances Vasquez outlined what she considered careless spending, as the board had attended meetings, perhaps too many. "The budget is not a slush fund or a cash cow," she said. Fred Baca of LULAC told of his interests in education and said his tax monies were for students, not board retreats or big TVs, like at Stout.

Amanda Rottman accused Streib of cutting a program with a budget of $180,000 that she and others had implemented for student benefit; and she called activities of Streib's wife nepotism. Linda Pafford spoke of tantrums, bullying, costs of outside attorneys, rumors of "shortfalls" and said these problems were not the choice of those accusing Petty or his administrative friends. She demanded that the board fix the problems or get out of the way.

Art Martinez said he was "impressed, inspired" by those accusing the board; it was obligated to listen with respect, to allow the time for comment, and to follow up. He exceeded his three minutes but continued to speak of lost faith and trust, and possible legal action. At the end of his words, Petty said the public time was ended and the board returned to its agenda.

Retiring Union Representative Justin Wecks of Silver City Education Association said that he, Wayne Sherwood and Leslie Fritz had met with Petty, Egan, Streib and Ramon Vigil, attorney, earlier that day. He felt progress had been made and trust could be rebuilt. New union co-representatives were Hannah Wecks and Wayne Sherwood for the year.

Streib responded that they needed to meet again as soon as possible in September, perhaps the 4th. Grievances could be handled and other problems addressed.

Action items included Milam's request for approval of checks in the amount of $1,771,195.96. Her deposits were $3,047,971.03. There were no bids. Benakis asked for approval of his bus drivers. The board approved these requests. Also approved were the boundary agreements between Animas and Lordsburg, the Asbestos Management Plan Notification, and the readings on policy advisories: 108, student immunizations; 109, reporting child abuse/child protection; 110, family life education; 111, graduation requirements.

The board voted to go into closed session to discuss the topics which included limited personnel matters regarding employee grievances. Adjournment was to follow at the end of the closed session.


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