By Hallie Richwine

The Silver Consolidated Schools Regular Board Meeting took place Tuesday, February 20, 2018 in the Silver Schools Administration Building. Board President Mike McMillan and Board Members Ashley Montenegro, Patrick Cohn, Michelle Diaz, and Eddie Flores attended as well as Superintendent Audie Brown.

The board heard a presentation from Klayton Bearup, Silver High School Agricultural teacher and FFA advisor, about the possibility of building a agricultural structure for animal rearing and teaching. The ideal location would be part of the existing campus near the auto shop complex. With many things that need to be considered before such a building exists, Bearup wants to overcome those challenges.

The needs offered by an agricultural lab include students raising and housing animals if they are not able to do so in their residential areas. Classes and labs could be more in-depth. Other community programs could utilize the structure for meetings and seminars. The design includes a fenced area for exercise and practicing arena skills, pens, and a lab.

Bearup has considered obstacles for this venture, including funding and city ordinances, and believes there is a way to way to address both issues. Freeport McMoRan has a community grant that could cover 75% of the funding, and Bearup wants to see if there could be an exception or variance for keeping the livestock within city limits.

"First, let me thank the FFA on their recent awards in district and state competitions. Would this help with future competitions?" asked Cohn.

Bearup believes it may. Students are able to practice their skills.

Flores agreed the ordinance is an obstacle. "What makes you think the city council will allow livestock in the city?" he asked.

Bearup said rural communities often allow exemptions for FFA, especially when projects such as these are for only a portion of the calendar year.

Flores also asked about animal waste - which Bearup said could be utilized in a composting project and the watershed could be used in the lagoon next door. "The students can get more out of it than flipgrams," said Bearup. Flores agreed it was a good project but wanted to know what the city thinks.

Diaz and Montenegro commended Bearup on his passion for the project and helping students learn.

Peter Limardo of Opportunity High School also presented to the board. Upon receiving a grant from Freeport McMoRan, OHS has been fulfilling the requirement to show how the funds are being used. Limardo introduced Asia Landon and Mark Steyskal to the board - two welding students that have worked hard in their programs. Landon said she had no idea she would go into welding when she came to OHS and thanked everyone for the opportunity. Steyskal had a similar story, "I didn't want to go to school at all. Now I see I can have a profession." Steyskal will graduate with his high school diploma as well as an Associate's Degree from Western New Mexico University.

"A lot of seniors don't know what they want to do. I commend you for getting the experience and wish you the best of luck," said Cohn.

Barry Ward then updated the board on outstanding projects, including the reinstatement of the Pre-K program. Funding comes from the state but finding the correct facility will be the hard part. Ward will look into possibilities of receiving capital outlay funds for updating buildings.

Brown commented, "The district is looking at bringing back the pre-K program; we have an opportunity to have a win-win-win program. Children can come into a public school setting before kindergarten. The community struggles with daycare, this could help working families. It could save jobs for staff." Brown admitted the challenge will be finding the facility. When the district first looked at the expansion, they thought they would have 60 additional students. Now the numbers look like 80-100.

Ward also said he has looked into the PNM incentive program to transfer lighting to LED and met with an engineer to conduct an audit. The ongoing utility savings would be nearly $150,00, giving the switchover a 3.5-year return on investment.

As for bond projects, everything is moving forward.

Brown continued with the superintendent report. He reported the Cliff gym floor needs repair. Parts were found to be rotting and it needs replaced sooner rather than later. The La Plata Middle School gym floor also needs replaced after a water line incident that damaged their brand-new floor.

Brown also updated the board and community members on the school safety and security initiative. The police department visited each school location and did evaluations. Next a safety and security committee will be formed. Brown said he intends to keep the community updated as the process continues, but it may take time as a lot of data needs to be reviewed.

The administration also will use a software program called "Board Book" which will reduce paper cost and time to assemble board materials. Physical copies are still available to the public.

The school district will also pilot the application "Stop!t," which is a powerful tool to report bullying. Feedback will go to the individual schools for follow-up. Reports are anonymous.

McMillan congratulated the Silver High Wrestling team on their success and wishes the basketball team well as they head into district play.

Montenegro thanked Howie Morales for sponsoring the bill that allows funding for the teachers and students who participate in National History day.

Cohn thanked Brown for his representation at the Chamber of Commerce meeting earlier this month.

Diaz applauded the La Plata staff for having an outlet for policy and procedure review that was not complaint-based.

Flores mentioned several items, including a letter from the superintendent to those athletes that participated in the state wrestling tournament. Flores said he himself received a letter when he was a student, and it meant a lot to him, "recognition from someone in charge was nice." He also said he would like to see school counselors working with students early to fill out FAFSA forms, so they could be familiar and get the most from the process.

Flores concluded his comments by saying there have already been a lot of calls regarding the safety and security committee and that he is glad it began prior to the last incidents reported on national news.

The board ultimately passed all individual action items on the agenda. They accepted the Facilities Master Plan, which assessed all facilities in order to prioritize projects. The board also agreed to replace the Cliff Schools floor, an unforeseen project, and the application for rural low -income schools. The adoption of the Safety and Security Resolution brought the most comments from the board, including Flores' comment that a lot of parents will think, "What does this mean?" As the committee meets they will come up with the resolutions for the threats uncovered in the assessment. Flores said it will take money and time and will not happen overnight since they are going over all of the schools. He also reminded the public that they cannot be completely transparent about the safety concerns so as not to draw attention to them.

McMillan announced the next Regular Meeting of the Silver Consolidated School Board will take place March 20, 2018.

Live from Silver City

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