By Lynn Janes
The Cobre Consolidated Schools held a Special board meeting at on March 6, 2023. President Serena Murillo called the meeting to order. Other board members in attendance included Gabriella Begay, Gilbert Guadiana, Elizabeth Dean, and David Terrazas. The Pledge of Allegiance and salute to the New Mexico flag took place. Dr. Jeff Spaletta also attended.
Reading of the board norms took place with each board member reading a norm. The norms consist of five rules the board strives to adhere to during the meeting. They are listed as actively listen to all perspectives, respond to concerns and questions as a unified board, professionalism expected, assume positive intent, and be positive and responsive.
Public input on agenda items none currently.
The board approved the agenda with changes. They moved the student representative report to after the approval of the agenda.
Micaela Roacho, the student representative, gave the board a report. The NHD (National History Day) went to regionals recently. The students have been getting ready for graduation that will be coming up soon. She said they would be having a lot of sports events this week, but all will be out of town.
Melissa Maynes, director of special education, has been heading up the Equity Council. She provided the board with a power point presentation. Currently the council consists of mostly teachers. Maynes said she has been unable to get parents and community members to commit. They filled out a questionnaire provided by the state. The theme showed not everyone has been trained in every area. They need to focus on how they look at things and make sure they will provide the most equitable for all. She said it has been a challenge to keep it together and have people attend the meetings.
Guadiana said he has had parents be interested and have concern with the district, so he didn't know why she had problems finding people. He also pointed out that the data would be skewed as it came from mostly one segment. Maynes asked him to have those interested parents contact her. He asked her if she had put anything in the newspaper or on the website and she replied no but had done it on social media. Dean suggested she try offering Zoom for the meetings as an option. Begay suggested using Parent Square, the software used by the district to connect with the parents.
Victor Arambula, director of technology, gave the board a report and demonstration of the new security door at Snell Middle School. He had past feed recorded from the system. He said they would also be installing sensors in some problem areas. The sensors will pick up tobacco products and vaping.
Guadiana asked him how long it would be to install the rest of camera systems and Arambula said as soon as they got the funding that had been requested. Terrazas asked if the system at the door can be voice activated. Arambula said yes and it can be Bluetooth activated along with each staff member having a code for entry.
Michael Koury, principal at San Lorenzo, has been heading up the security and safety plans. The district had ordered radios some time ago but when they finally received them they realized they could not use these radios for several reasons, one being they would be easily hackable. He said he had found some that would work but they would not fit in the budget currently. They would have to find more funding.
Koury said he had submitted the safety plans for each school in December 2022 to the state and they must be approved on two levels. The plans had been sent back asking for some minor revisions. The revisions had been made. Currently they have received three back as approved but the rest he said would be coming shortly. He said he would be happy to share the plans with the board privately.
Finance committee report
Begay said they would meet the following week. The meeting had been posted with a schedule of what would be discussed.
Director of operations report
Dane Kennon, operations director, had not been available so Spaletta gave the report.
The central pond drainage project would start in August. They discussed the situation that came up because the end quote and lowest had been above the original cost used to get the partial funding from DOT (Department of Transportation). A quote of $32,300 had been given and DOT had agreed to 75 percent ($24,225) of that cost and the district would pay 25 percent ($8,075). The recent quotes had the lowest at $46,000 and highest $69,000. Now the district would have to pay $24,255. Murillo asked if they could reapply with DOT and get the additional money. Spaletta said he thought that would be a great idea and he would see if that could be done. They talked about other projects that might be able to be included.
Aaron Lewis, teachers union president, had a report for the board. He brought up maybe doing what other districts, do separating the executive session from the regular meeting. He said it would help get more people involved if they didn't think they might have to sit around for hours while the board had an executive session. He did commend them and referred them as a hazmat team. "You have a lot to clean up and I appreciate what you are doing to move forward." The collective bargaining agreement had been reached and a final draft was being written up. He said it would not be brought to them until after spring break because the people writing it up are volunteers and he would not push them.
Spaletta gave the board the post entry plan that identified eight key themes. He had also provided a document with all the information. He listed some of them briefly. Resurrection of the leadership team, organizational chart, directors and coordinators changes and salary schedules. Murillo asked when the committees would be formed. Spaletta said a week or so after spring break.
Spaletta went over the college and career pathways plans for the schools. He had met with the college, other schools, and legislators. Sometimes students lack the skills for college or the workforce. He turned the presentation over to Edward Pena. He said they have a booklet to help with pathways. They start in eighth grade with the next step program. They talked about dual enrolment choices and associate's degrees. He said they help them choose those classes and degrees that will help them the most. Currently they have 85 students doing the dual enrollment classes.
Recently Spaletta attended a superintendent conference in San Antonio, Texas. He said he had enjoyed the experience and had learned a lot from it that would help. The conference provided many different classes. He had attended staff retention, loss of learning time, digital technology, personalized learning, and equitable growth mindset. He gave them some examples of the inventive ideas they had for recruitment and retention. At the conference they told them by the year 2030 they would have 2 million jobs in education not filled. He had gone to a class about building new high schools and said they needed to focus on building for the future. Another thing talked about had to do with bringing in faith group leaders to be involved with the schools. Begay said she had experience with that and thought it would be a great idea.
The Cobre High School band had not had uniforms for twenty years. Spaletta said he wanted to make it a priority to have uniforms in the budget for them next year. Guadiana asked him what the cost would be. He said $45,000 - $50,000.
Spaletta said they have been contracting out some of the human resource work. He gave them a list of what was done and who they had contracted with. Guadiana asked him if they had gotten any applications and he said quite a few had come in.
A work session will be held to discuss with the public what has gone on with the gym project and bond funds, with a list of what the funds have been spent on and what remains. Also, what could be done with the remainder. Guadiana said he had contacted the bond council and the district will not be in such a time crunch as previously thought. He said he got some direction on how to handle it.
Spaletta gave the board a document with all the facilities' requests. It also covered the fundraisers' requests.
Dr. Richard Best, Snell Middle School interim principal, gave the board a report on the school. He provided them with documents that came from the first advisory team. "It is challenging and demanding but it has to be done." He went over his thoughts of what needs to be done. They must create positive expectations and follow through. "I spend too much time on discipline. We need to bring out the best in our scholars and how they can make better choices." He had created a wellness team. The team consists of eight people and then they break down to two who take a group of students and help the students in the most need to create a mentoring environment. "Scholars invest in themselves when invested in themselves." He added "We have to do more to make school enjoyable and engaging so they want to come." He gave the board some ideas he had to accomplish that and some things he has started already. He said his forte has been to enhance the quality of instruction.
He pointed out the importance of the parents and guardians being involved. The parents seem to be involved when they have a game, the parking lot is full. When they have a peer advisory meeting, maybe three cars in the parking lot. "We have to make it clear what we need them to do. They need higher expectations."
Best brought up another problem he saw that needs correction immediately. They had to have a quality curriculum. They can use the standards but that doesn't equip the teacher. "It is a problem here that cannot continue. We need to be committed to best practices."
They have a lot of damaged computers, and the laptops don't have any kind of cases to protect them, so they get damaged easily. Best addressed the condition of the technology in the school. They have a need for charging stations because many times the scholars forget to bring their charging cords. He brought up new software available that would really help the scholars excel. "I want to push you hard on this. We need what is best for our scholars and we have urgency. A lot of work needs to be done." He said he has spent far too much time with discipline and not doing what he should be, and they need more teachers. "I need to be an educator and not a disciplinarian." He added that they had a staff with big hearts and want to do the best they can.
Terrazas said he appreciated his commitment. Guadiana thanked him and said he has been an encouragement to the students and cited his own daughter. He said he appreciated his time and creativity and knew it had been challenging. He also thanked him for his candor.
A resident and former teacher said he had known many past superintendents and lobbyists. He said he has interest in the school and feels it is his school. "You are elected to do what we want." He reflected on bond money the schools had gotten years ago and he had to push to get it spent. The district didn't seem to want to spend it. He said he had started the wrestling program at Cobre years ago. It had done great but not anymore. "I campaigned for the last bond issue because you said some would go for wrestling and it is not going for that. We need to fix the situation we have now, and a lot of people feel that way." He told the board they needed to straighten out the district and soon. He has been tired of people complaining to him. The executive session needs to be done separately, people get frustrated. "We need to work as a team." He then told them he appreciated them and knew it has been a lot of work. "I want us to work together, and we need you to lead. Get it by the horns. You are good people, you have a lot of responsibility, but we all do."
The board went into executive session for about thirty minutes.
The board came back to open session and said no action had been taken.
The board authorized the board president to work with legal counsel to prepare findings of the completed investigation.
The board tabled the next items on the agenda. They had to do with public statements concerning the investigation and complaints against the superintendent and possible action regarding the executive session.