By Lynn Janes

The Cobre Consolidated Schools held a board meeting January 23, 2023, at Hurley Elementary School. President Serina Murillo called the meeting to order. Other board members in attendance included Gabriella Begay, Gilbert Guadiana, and David Terrazas. The Pledge of Allegiance and salute to the New Mexico flag took place. Dane Kennon attended as interim superintendent. The Pledge of Allegiance and salute to the New Mexico flag was also said by the students in Spanish. Elizabeth Dean did not attend.

The students had presentations to perform for the board. The bilingual class said they learn to read, write, translate, and learn about their culture. Each one had a powerful, uplifting quote that they said in English and then in Spanish. They performed a traditional dance and song celebrating New Mexico. The second grade class and first grade class preformed a traditional dance and songs in Spanish. The students gave potted plants to the board in thanks for their service and to recognize January as school board appreciation month.

Bob Carson with Kiwanis attended to present student of the month awards. Kennon introduced the first two from December.

Micaela Roacho holds a 4.0 plus grade average and has been enrolled in dual credit courses. She will graduate with an associates degree in liberal arts in May. She has been involved in numerous organizations and a member of the honor society.

Michael Albers has a 4.0 plus grade average and takes honors courses. He has been helpful, respectful and a role model to the other students. He has chosen a career path to be an engineer.

Bob Carson talked a little bit about the Key Club and said it had been strong at Cobre and Silver through the years. Each club designs their own program. "Key Club stands for service and a great attitude." Carson then presented the January recipients.

William Welcome received the award for being kind, polite and having a positive attitude.

Hailey Gutierrez received the award for being an exemplary student that goes the extra mile.

Student representative Micaela Roacho didn't have a student report for the board.

Murillo gave a statement concerning public input. The input could not be more than five minutes and they must sign in before the meeting. The total time given for public input will be no more than thirty minutes. She reminded them the board could not deliberate on their input. "The board encourages you to speak your mind but be respectful and don't use profanity."

Public input on agenda items none currently.

Action items.

The board approved the agenda

The board approved the minutes from December 12, 2022, December 19, 2022, and January 9, 2023. Murillo asked for one addition to each one that they include the time and location of the meeting.

The board approved the deletion of board policy 130-1. The policy contradicts the current policy concerning Open Meetings Act.

The board approved the Open Meetings Act resolution. This resolution happens each year to give the dates of the upcoming meetings.

The board approved giving Kennon authority to sign documents with Yellow Bird Solar after they had done a presentation and answered questions. Robert Estrada said they just want to grow solar energy in New Mexico and provide education at the same to the students. He turned the presentation over to Rocky Backus, president of Yellow Bird.

Backus said this program has been in the works within the state for ten years. Currently the state has a lot of incentives to pay for solar. What they wanted to do would be lease the air rights to the Cobre School District campuses. It would be at $5,000 a year for the lease. They will build shaded parking with solar panels that would benefit the community in several ways. Some of the power could be allocated to low income residents to get a credit each month on their electric bill. The schools could benefit by getting lower energy costs. Backus said about one hundred companies will be bidding on these kinds of projects, but Yellow Bird only work with schools. Begay asked if any other school districts had opted in, and he said he had done eight presentations and Deming will opt in, and the others he has not heard back on yet. Guadiana asked if it would reduce energy costs. Backus went through a long explanation and yes it would. Murillo asked how the low income would benefit and he said they have different methods of certification and if they qualified, they would receive a credit every month on their electric bill. Guadiana asked about the maintenance. Yellow Bird takes care of all maintenance and installation. It will be a ten year lease and they can renew at that time but if they don't Yellow Bird has two years to remove structures. Murillo brought up zoning problems with solar in the mining district. Backus didn't know what the situation had been or if it would be the same. Kennon said he would find out. The state will have a selection process based on points so they may or may not be chosen. Begay commented that it would fit well with the strategic plan.

Unfinished business

Kennon said he had included a salary schedule in their packet. The schedule would only be for new employees. Murillo said they didn't receive a schedule. Some discussion went on about the schedule.

Kennon said bills from the previous council have not been paid. Murillo asked which ones. Kennon said he would get a list to them the next day.

Finance committee

Begay said they had met and had a long agenda and only got through five of them. They talked about the board responsibilities and their budget involvement. They had asked Frank Ryan, finance director, for financial reports and he didn't have them. He said he had been working on consolidating and had a priority list. Begay wanted to point out how hard he had been working to get things straightened out and up to date. He had come to work over the break to keep working on it. The committee had questioned a few bills. ACE had a bill for $24,533. They found it had been half for maintenance and half had been spent on mini-splits for heating. They had some others that they verified but found the district had still been paying on hot spots to T Mobile that had been active during the pandemic. They had some overtime from the administration that needs to be addressed. Guadiana added they found variants in the non-certified contracts that needed to be looked into.

Audit committee

Guadiana said primarily they had accepted the contract for the special audit. They agreed to include the payment of unused leave and unused sick leave paid to a past outgoing superintendent. They have a new process for gas cards to better keep track of the costs. The next audit will have findings concerning reconciliation of accounts but the next one will not. They will also be looking at the athletic department expenditures

Administration report

Richard Best, Snell Middle School principal, gave a report on what he has been doing.

He took the microphone and started walking around the room and directly asking the board questions. He said they have a dedicated staff and central office for support. "It is demanding but is sacred work to me. "We call students scholars." He asked the board what they thought of when he said scholars. The board threw out studies, reads, asks questions, loves to learn, respectful, etc. "Words make a difference." He said his focus has been great teaching and goes to every classroom. They have the scholars writing in every class and collaborating with the other students. "My challenge is to have them talk to each other, learn to get along with each other." He commented he wished he could say that he had made headway, but they still have a long way to go. He asked the board if they knew why he moved around while he spoke. "When I move around you take me more seriously and I can see if you are getting what I am saying so I know if I need to explain it better." He went on to say "What are our expectations of our scholars? We want them to be respectful and focus on learning and that is especially hard in middle school." He said they need to figure out how to make things better. They have been surveying staff, parents, and scholars. Some interesting things came up. Some things lined up. The staff said more professional development and hands on learning. The scholars said more tutoring, hands on learning, and more clubs. "It is important to listen to them and important to inject some fun."

Best said on Saturdays he makes 30-40 celebration calls to parents. He gets names of scholars that have done well or improved during the week and lets the parents know what they have done. "Transforming the culture is hard to do but it is sacred work. If we don't do better, we can't expect the scholars to do better. We want to create an environment they can't wait to come to." He commented it had been challenging, and a lot of work will be needed.

Begay thanked him for all he had done. Guadiana said he knew he had many challenges and had done well.

School safety report

Kennon wanted to talk about the Snell Middle School incident January 18, 2023 but knew he could not use any names or particulars. He knew the student had been arrested and been in front of a judge. The judge said he will not be allowed in school or on any of the school property. The board agreed. The district will continue to investigate. Best has met with all the families involved, and they have a councilor that will be working with all the students involved.

Kennon said they had asked for over $1 million for safety equipment for all the schools. $900,000 of that will go to surveillance alone. He thanked the police and sheriff for all their help. They will be looking into hiring additional security personnel for Snell. For now, the police and sheriff will be given a bell schedule and will be present and visible at those times.

The Central Elementary gym has three contracts, and one will be chosen by the end of the month and a purchase order done and the project started.

Begay asked if the radios she requested had been received yet. Kennon said they had not, and Begay wanted a timeline for when they would have them. Kennon said he would check and let her know. Begay asked about the tech funds they had requested from Mr. Abbey. Kennon asked: "David Abbey from the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee?" Begay said yes. Kennon said they had a meeting set up and Abbey had to cancel but they would be rescheduling as soon as possible.

Guadiana wanted to know why the cameras at Snell didn't work. Victor Arambula, director of technology, said the system was seventeen years old and the software would not support it any longer. The plan includes getting new cameras and system. Guadiana asked if they could get a few cameras for now and Arambula said they could.

Public input none currently

The board went into executive session.

The board reconvened into open session and no action had been taken on anything discussed.

The board approved the authorization of legal counsel to engage in an outside investigator to investigate the internal complaint against the superintendent.

They discussed things to have on the next agenda. The list included, board policies, bills for hot spots, curriculum, recent student scores, salary schedule, legislative lobby update, equity council and NMSBA (New Mexico State Board of Education) conference.


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