Photo and article by Margaret Hopper
The Silver School Board met at the administration building May 16, 2017. Mike McMillan, board president, opened the meeting at 6:00, with all board members present, Frances Vasquez, Ashley Montenegro, Patrick Cohn and Justin Wecks.
Alicia Edwards, coordinator of Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities (HKHC), gave the board time and opportunity to ask questions about the resolutions work that needed to be finished by June 30. She admitted the hard copy and electronic files presented to them were quite lengthy, but said they had seen much of it over a period of time and much of it was already in place.
The present need was to draw all the former policies into a single document well enough organized that anyone from the public or schools could read, she said. These mandates had begun in 2004 and were continuing into the present. The PED (Public Education Department) wanted the most comprehensive kids’ health policies and requirements possible for kids in the public schools. They took time, money and human resources to get them into compliance, she said.
Once these are gathered by June 30, the next step is to look at the language and figure how to get the compliance and the enforcement in place. PED and NMSEA had put out guidance documents to help with this process.
McMillan said he was thankful that most of the work had been done for the board; he noted that the emergency medication policy (in red code) had been tabled for many months, awaiting clarification from the School Nurses’ Association. The school board association (SBA) had said that wording was not the best and he said the SHAC (School Health Advisory Council) policies that worked for them must be in the green code.
Edwards said the wording was still optional, not yet mandated by statute. At this point they could rewrite these not to be mandated. Several areas would be “strengthened” in the future, and would be mandated, but that was not the case at present. To meet the deadline, they needed to approve the document in general, but they could ask her to rewrite some topics in a less demanding tone, for now. She said she would be available for group work or one-on-one, by phone or email. But the document must be approved by the next board meeting.
David Buchholtz, agent for Rodey Law firm, Albuquerque, and Luis Carrasco, attorney, were on hand to help the board take the next steps toward exercising the $20 million bond issue recently voted in, with George K Baum and Company. Buchholtz assured the board that it had help with document preparation and review, with respect to both New Mexico tax law and federal securities. While Mark Valenzuela of G.K. Baum couldn’t be there, they had spoken with him and knew he was still working on the issue.
The third element was the underwriter. While there were several options, it appeared that Robert W. Baird of Albuquerque had a program that would benefit the district. Presuming that all went well, there should be money in the bank by the beginning of July to start paying for the intended projects, which might already be started. The language for that was provided. The first phase would use about $5 million of the $20 million the voters had approved.
Tonight the board needed to approve both the authorizing resolution and the reimbursement resolution, he said. This would select the underwriter and set the disclosures needed for selling the bonds, to satisfy the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, and bring in the money to start the changes the district had planned. Michele McCain, Silver’s financial director, would be presenting on the choice of the underwriter.
McCain read a number of possible underwriters that had responded to the district’s search. Buchholtz said this was the list Valenzuela had given him. This included a commercial bank, the “state-bank” - the New Mexico Financing Authority, and some securities. While the NMFA had a competitive rate, it was presently subject to change and created time delays. Robert W. Baird of Denver, Colorado, had offered the lowest cost bid of $3.50 per thousand and it had financed a number of school districts in New Mexico. Valenzuela said it was the bid he chose for Silver.
The board was given a brief period here to ask questions and Buchholtz responded before going on. His next information was on the nature of disclosures. This was a first draft, it was necessary by SEC rules that the board see it with time for responses. Soon it would be presented again, in final form. This spelled out the responsibilities of all parties concerned. Again, he allowed board members to ask questions about items that might affect disclosures.
Carrasco then spoke on the sale resolution and structure of the bond. It would address the present $5 million undertaken in this first phase, and any early starts to be financed in this portion. There would be maturity dates for each maturity of the bonds, and the interest rate and the redemption features (early retirement periods). Beginning and final payment dates would be stated.
Section 12 would inform the Grant County Commission what it needed to charge property owners, as these were general obligation bonds, backed by property taxes. The guarantees would all be spelled out. This resolution was for the first $5 million portion and they would be back to present a new resolution with the other portions to be activated.
Katrina Bustillos, Silver City Education Association, said the negotiations were nearly complete; they waited for Cliff to return a memo of understanding, and Jason Ping's, at Opportunity High. Salary schedules would be posted on the website. Under Reconfiguration, some teachers are awaiting room assignments in other schools; that information would be used by the union, too. They are watching student test results, fairness in many conditions, and reporting it openly.
The superintendent, Audie Brown, reported that neither Stout nor Harrison Schmitt had unused space for Little Lambs Day Care; if other options came later, they would be considered. Moving El Grito Head Start from Stout to Sixth Street also would not happen, although once considered. Transportation from Stout to Sixth Street had also been an issue. The two El Grito units would stay as they presently are, two at Sixth Street and two at Stout.
In the technology report, Ben Potts said they were changing vendors at considerable savings to the district, but few bids had come in. WNM Communications had placed a three-year bid of $160,000 that would be less than Century Link, which had been $400,000 for three years.
Also, WNMC would be putting in fiber optics to three elementary schools, Harrison Schmitt, Jose Barrios and Sixth Street, at a cost of a bit over $30,000. In return, WNMC needed easements approvals, which were on this agenda. Potts later said next year’s eRate would pay 80 percent against this installation figure.
Candy Milam, assistant superintendent, reported on the Reconfiguration. All the schools involved had been met with, the plan given and questions and answers fielded. High school kids were available to help in the moves; teachers just had to label the boxes, not actually move them. She said she felt good about the progress.
The finance and audit sub-committee reports by board members were brief. McCain’s April check expense figure was $2,298,408.65. The district had received $80,000 for Jason Ping’s vocational program and another $53,000 to help the district’s technology budget. Another $38,500 would be going for 5th grader Chromebooks at Harrison Schmitt.
On the consent agenda, these items were approved. The individual action items included the approval of reimbursement resolution for the bond and the authorizing resolution. Another one was approval of the right of way easements for Jose Barrios, Harrison Schmitt and Sixth Street, which will get the fiber optics placed for those elementary schools.
The next scheduled regular meeting is June 20, with a work session before that, at 5:00. Another special meeting in June is to be announced, but likely June 6. The New Mexico School Law Conference is scheduled for June 2-3 in Albuquerque.
The board then voted to go into closed session to discuss limited personnel and some litigation reports. This early portion ended just before 8:00 p.m.