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Cobre School Board discusses infrastructure needs

By Margaret Hopper

At the Monday, February 25 Cobre school board meeting, president Frank Cordova called the public session to order at 7:11 p.m. in the District Office at Bayard. In the earlier 6:07 p.m. closed session, Cordova said they had discussed student identifiable information, superintendent’s evaluation and pending litigation, but no decisions had been made. Four members were in attendance, Frances Kelly, Frank Gomez, Ralph Sepulveda and Cordova; Freddie Rodriguez was not present.

After receiving a letter from a Chino Federal Credit Union officer, the board approved the use of facilities for Chino on March 27, for its annual meeting. It plans to use the cafeteria and some visual equipment that evening. The board said the evaluation of interim superintendent George Peru showed “a job well done, overall,” for the past year.

In the superintendent’s report, Peru said this year the district would do a math adoption, and it was important to “keep all schools aligned vertically and horizontally," doing the same assignments across the district. There was still staff development work to be done, and Cobre would share its training sessions with other districts of Region VIII, including Lordsburg, Reserve, Animas, Deming, T or C and others who cared to come, by way of Regional Educational Cooperative, which will train for Common Core.  

Regarding work at the high school, roof work needed to be done, as well as quite a bit of paving. High School principal Johnny Benavidez said the paving requirements placed the work at a low level, at a “three” rating on a scale of one to ten, with a lot of improving to be done. They hoped to stop the erosion. Peru said he had delayed the work hoping the recent reevaluations would improve the school’s standings and bring some financial relief, but the evaluations were not back yet. The final cost could be up to a quarter of a million dollars.

The work on paving would proceed during spring break and take about eight days for completion. A firm from T or C, Sierra Contracting, had the bid for $36,751.15. The financing would be broken into parts and he hoped some grant monies would help out, too. The district would write for grant funds from Public School Finance Authority, Department of Transportation sources and others. Meanwhile, the fence would come down, curbs would be put in—things to turn the situation around.

Student Representative Hampton Burnette reported that the College Day program had seen representatives from seven or eight colleges talking with seniors. Chuck Gerheart of the music department had recently been honored as New Mexico Educator of the Year by NM Music Education Association. Cobre’s band has offered outstanding performances for several years. In sports, Cobre was a 2-A sized school, competing well against mostly 3-A competitors. At the state competitions, Cobre had two wrestling champions, Oliver Perrault and Chico Perez.

During public input time, Cordova said the next board meeting would see a new face, that of Robert Montoya, who would be seated with them at future meetings, and he would need to be sworn in by a judge. Likely, all the rest of the board would be re-sworn at the same time. Also new were all five board members from Reserve, as former members had been removed, and these new ones appeared interested in working with other schools in Region VIII. There were changes and much to be learned.

As for the School Board Association Region VIII scholarships available to area high schools, Cobre and Animas would not be eligible to receive any this year, as they had received one each in the past year. With the financial crunch, the SBA planned to offer ten $1,000 dollar scholarships this year, whereas last year, it had twenty-five across the state. Cordova also spoke of state senator Howie Morales’ bill to identify the grading factors to help with the new A through F system so schools could learn how to upgrade, as it presently didn’t seem logical. Improved scores didn’t necessarily bring up placements.

Benavidez said it was impressive that Cobre, a 2-A school, had come out third overall at the state wrestling championship against a field of 3-A competitors. Fran Kelly said she didn’t know who was getting all the school news into the paper, but it was good to see all those positives. Sepulveda noted that IDEA financing was at risk, and word was that if the federals pulled it, it would not be coming back. Some asked for waivers, but nothing was certain at this time. Benavidez said Cobre’s Maintenance of Effort, (MOE) needed to be properly filed. There were questions about it. Cordova said it was possible past MOE plans could come back on the district, and PED likely wouldn’t be covering it.

At the recent state school board training sessions, there had been a session on shooting incidents in which schools were encouraged to write their plans, but more importantly, to have actual practice with the students, as unpracticed planning would be unlikely to help in a real emergency. Community law enforcement needed to be an aware part of that plan. Peru said the district had hired two “preventionists," Anita Costa, the district's social worker, and an aide, Marisella Sanchez, to work with these plans and move them into the classrooms. Bullying was another topic explored at the state training sessions.

Under finances, Peru asked the board to approve a list of budget increases as presented:
An increase of $62,943 for IDEA B- Entitlement, an increase of $19,064 in IDEA B- preschool, $1861 for IDEA B-Risk Pool, an increase of $167,171 for SB- state match, and an increase of $30,210 in transportation. These amounts represented carry-overs from the year 2011-2012 into those funds, according to Peru. The board approved them all.

In the review of bills, also approved, the largest check was the $125,725.05 monthly payment to New Mexico Finance Authority, which will pay off the funds borrowed to improve Central Elementary over the past year, which totaled $2.4 million. This loan would be paid off in the next year or so, said Peru. Another bill for water was $12,609, and the checks for salaries amounted to $412,558.72 for the month. The board approved these expenses, also.
Items that will go on the March agenda will include the swearing in of the board, and the board will also need to be reorganized, according to Cordova.

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