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Silver School Board addresses heavy agenda

On February 28, Silver School Board completed a heavy agenda, with all members present. During the work session that started at 5:00 p.m., Barry Ward, facilities manager, and Gus Benakis, assistant superintendent, told board members the work that had been done on shooter security issues for schools in the district. Their 2-page report outlined a one-hour session with local and state police, emergency management, central dispatch, border patrol, the sheriff and school personnel on February 18. The over-all planning and enforcement relationships were put in place at this meeting. Benakis gave credit to Gilbert Hilton, experienced enforcement officer here in Grant County, who has worked with the district on this over the past several months.

At a second meeting on February 22, representatives of each school and the sheriff’s department were addressed by Nick Montano, security and safety consultant of Poms and Associates Insurance, for a two-hour period in practical considerations of how to prepare for a lock-down situation with children at school. Benakis described some hard-hitting realities brought to staff attention and said Montano would be returning in May to assess the progress of the planners who appear to be off to a good start. The hazard plans and procedures will be taking shape for some time, yet.

Also in the work session, Assistant Superintendent Candy Milam outlined the budget adjustment requests for the 2012-2013 school year. The largest total, $112,958, was for Entitlement IDEA-B (special education), representing the difference between the initial and final awards and cash carryover amounts. Other amounts were for Title 1, $99,411, capital improvements, $73,652, preschool IDEA, $15,997,  IDEA risk pool, $4,193, transportation, $26,910, rural and low income schools, $12,925, education for the homeless (McKinny Vento), and similar categories. Two items were for buses, with Cliff purchasing a bus for $19,822 and Montoya Transportation, 2 buses, for $39,644.

In Superintendent Streib’s report, he mentioned possible land trades that would consolidate holdings for the district, county and the town. A small piece would go to Cliff, another piece would go to the county in exchange, and the town would gift a small lot just north of the tennis courts. Board President Trent Petty reminded them that Stewart Rooks of Farm Bureau had a third parcel that needed to be in the mix. At past meetings, Streib had mentioned this would take time, but no money was expected to change hands. It would merely clean up parcel maps and be convenient for the users.

Work at the soccer field at the Sports Complex would see Silver City accepting the costs of redoing the sprinkler system. Board members asked who owned the land; it appears that the state does, and it is on lease for local use. One comment was that the Altamirano Complex was the largest water user in Grant County, and there was an electric bill to pay.

Streib described the Secure School Building (also at the Altamirano Complex) as a “hot item," with the town, a private school and Juvenile Probation Parole Office, all asking to use it. The reason given for its present non-use was that it had not been cost effective as a study place for students on suspension. In discussion, board members said it was important that, as property of the school district, it benefit district students.  The topic will not be decided immediately, but will be studied further, according to Streib.

Thanks for past services and plaques were given to outgoing board members Pete Holguin, 2009 to 2013, Charlotte McGaughey, 2007 to 2013, and Barry Remmel, 2005 to 2013. At the next meeting, they will be replaced by newly elected members Tony Egan, Arnold Torres and Chris Arvidson. Orientation and information are being designed to bring the new board into action as soon as possible.

Harrison Schmidt’s principal, Ronetta Hogan, gave an outline of the school’s activities, school report card, staff development work and goals to board members. One competition for students she mentioned was the national Battle of the Books. They thanked her for a good analysis of what was happening and where the school was going.

Assistant superintendents Tricia Martinez and Benakis said the new School Reach program discussed at the January meeting had now been given a true test on February 20, when a weather cancellation triggered mass communications with parents. Seventy-five percent of the calls reached the parents as expected; 8 percent failed as numbers were no longer in service or because of similar errors. Martinez said an initial letter had alerted parents of the possibility earlier, and after the cancellation, a second letter went out telling the results and asking for updated phone numbers where they were needed.

Benakis said the new system should be an excellent investment at the one-time price of $5000 and that it had many applications for other emergency situations. One, which might be implemented as time permitted, was to notify parents whose children were absent for the day, as early as 9:30 in the morning. In the event of truancies, action could be taken quickly. Also, when school closings were known ahead of time, the first round of calls might be as soon as 9:00 p.m. the night before, with a second round of calls the next morning, which should help working parents arrange for their children more easily.

Action Items consisted mainly of the budget adjustments given at the beginning and the check totals amounting to $2,279,889.31. Utility bills of $10,423.57 to NM Gas and $23,532.61 to PNM were included, plus a larger bill for insurance of $277,585 to Poms and Associates. The bus purchases and budget adjustments were also approved at this time. Both Remmel and Holguin had looked over the amounts before the meeting, and the board voted to approve these bills as presented without further debate.

Because of the changes on the board, reorganization will follow at the March meeting and a retreat is planned for a date soon. Petty added that word from state senator Howie Morales is that the Vo Tech 'looks like a go," but it might be routed more through the public schools than through WNMU. The board also approved school calendars for Silver and Cliff for the year 2013-2014.

The open portion adjourned at 7:20 and the board retired to go into closed session to discuss student identifiable information and limited personnel issues. The March meeting should be held the third Thursday as scheduled, at the district office. The public is encouraged to attend the open sessions.

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