By Lynn Janes

The Silver City Consolidated Schools held a work session and regular meeting, on March 19, 2024. Members in attendance Ashley Montenegro, Michelle Diaz, Patrick Cohn, and Kimberly Klement. Superintendent William Hawkins also attended. Mike McMillan had not attended.

Work session

Mike Stone of Stone, McGee, and Co. had performed the 2023 audit for the district. It had been sent in on time and the state had reviewed and sent a letter releasing it for publication. The audit had an unmodified opinion on the financial statements and compliance with federal regulations. They did not have any findings. Stone said, “It is the best it could be.” He complimented the central office staff and said they had been very cooperative and helpful. He added that previously he had said they could not do the audit again because of state regulations on the number of years one auditor could do the audit but he had made an error and they could do it one more year.

Regular meeting

Bob Carson with Kiwanis attended to present the past two months of the student of the month awards. He said Kiwanis had been in Silver City since 1946.

Tyson Yost, Cliff Schools 11th grade, always has a smile and can do attitude making the toughest tasks manageable. He participates in dual credit classes and has become a member of the national honor society. He participates in basketball and track.

Devin Harsh, Cliff Schools 12th grade, has a 4.1+ GPA and ranks second in his class. Upon graduation he plans to join the Coast Guard. He goes above and beyond, and is always the first to volunteer.

Pia Weisdorfer, La Plata Middle School, consistently demonstrates consideration for others and has a positive attitude. Her commitment and dedication to doing the right thing makes her stand out.

Xander Carrasco, La Plata Middle School, has been self-motivated and consistently works hard in all his classes. He demonstrates kindness and always has a smile on his face.

Danity Gore, Silver High School, a sophomore with a 4 + GPA shows her dedication to excellence. She participates in basketball and softball and her leadership in those sports contribute to the success of the team. She demonstrates caring, consideration and empathy for others. She has helped with “Shop with a Cop” and walked dogs at the animal shelter.

Information to the board

La Plata Middle School students made a presentation to the board about their school’s achievements and goals. Bennett Traeger, Ella Schottmuller and Bella Lopez gave the presentation. They gave a power point presentation.

The goals have been to keep attendance up, cutting back on vaping, doing well on state tests and listed several other goals. They went over the upcoming events. FFA (Future Farmers of America) placed second and third in the New Mexico Leadership Conference. National History Day (NHD) had regional competitions in February and had placed with 13 projects, only two did not place. Six of them had been first place. They went over some of the other achievements and sports events coming up.

Hawkins gave the board an update on the calendar PED (Public Education Department) ruling. March 7, 2024, they had ruled to implement the 180 instructional days. Currently they have 176 days. Hawkins said they had made some adjustments by deleting a parent teacher conference day, a professional day and changed two days to remote learning days. The information has been put in the newspaper and Parent Square. The 4-day school week will be allowed but they must meet a proficiency level. At this time, they don’t know the data PED will use to make those determinations. Cliff should qualify but they also must show growth. Some superintendents have prepared for legal action against the PED, Santa Rosa being one of them. Silver Schools was first in the state to do a resolution supporting the superintendent group that might take legal action. Hawkins said they would not know until this summer what numbers PED would be using to make their determinations for the 4-day a week schools.

Mark Valenzuela, Bosque Advisors LLC, attended the meeting to give a follow up from the last meeting he had presented and to provide more information that had been requested. He had presented at the last meeting the situation for the school’s ability to obtain bonds and mill levy information.

One of the questions had been what would happen if they went to the 10 mill levy and what it would look like. He wanted to give a little information before he answered the question. Valenzuela said things have been changing in Santa Fe daily concerning this issue. They have received $1 billion in projects requesting waivers to the match. He had attended a meeting and he thought that they would not be giving 100 percent waivers but portions of the match. Right now, for the next two years, the district pays 63 percent and the state 37 percent. After two years what the state pays will be going down.

Diaz went over the last presentation and how she understood it and how the property taxes would be affected. Montenegro currently said the mill levy was at 5.4 mills

During the presentation a person attending had a large sign he held up saying “No New Taxes Hawkins”

They reviewed on the last presentation that Silver Schools ranked 16th lowest in debt levy and 8 of those do not have any debt levy. Valenzuela pointed at that those 8 fall into either tribal communities or oil and gas areas.

Montenegro said they had chosen not to increase on the last bond project and if they had they would be halfway there now. They had never had the 10 mill conversation at that time. “As a board member I was naive and didn’t know the right questions to ask. Everyone has asked why all these other places have been able to build these new schools and now we know why, they tax at the 10 mill.” She said had they done it last time it would have hurt less, especially since everything has almost doubled in price. “I want to take responsibility as a board member for not doing that then so it would hurt less. Now the district will be in a position to have to jump instead of inch up because the needs are astronomical.”

Valenzuela said it had been a different conversation back then. The state was not sitting on billions of dollars in 2016 and 2017. The state had also been very selective of the projects they funded. At that time the mill levy here would be falling away and the discussion had been to let it go or keep it the same. They recommended they keep it at the current level and be able to generate around $20 million over the four-year period. Montenegro said, “We thought $20 million would go a long way.” At the high school the recent face lift cost $10 million. “When people think $20 million that is a ton of money but when you are using if for school projects see what $10 million got, a face lift.” She said they still had a lot to do, and the only way would be voter support. She visited the idea of using a lower increase in the mill levy and investing the money each year and how much return could they get over a several year period and would that get them to where they needed to be. Valenzuela went over some of it and he will be running the numbers for the next meeting. Montenegro said, “Probably the only way to accomplish what they want will be to go to the 10 mill levy, and it is time to do it. We should have known this before so we could inch it up.” She added that it would be the school board asking for the increase and not the superintendent.

Louis Alvarez, associate superintendent, gave the board a personnel report. He said they currently have 98 percent staffed. At this time of year, he has been receiving resignations and people deciding to retire so that number would be going down.

Cindy Barris, associate superintendent, said the enrollment numbers had not changed and two students had changed to virtual learning.

Joyce Barela, mental health coordinator, said on March 8, 2024, they had a social emotional learning day and focused on kindness. They have been looking at ways to promote emotional health in a different way and have looked at music. They will be hiring three people for this program and will be doing it in all the elementary schools. As of March 8, 2024, they have had 2,521 visits to the wellness rooms.

Michele McCain, director of finance, wanted to add that they can’t use any of the operating budget for building unless they have an emergency situation. Montenegro asked her what total budget she managed. She said approximately $31 million but it would be increasing due to the increases mandated by the state and a very large majority of that budget goes to salaries and costs associated with that.

The finance subcommittee met, and Montenegro said they discussed the financial statements, the costs of the HVAC system and some other small projects. The track can’t be finished until every day for two weeks the temperature does not fall below 50 degrees. They had received one of the two new buses. Hawkins added that the HVAC system has been being done in phases but will be on track to be finished by May 15, 2024.

The audit subcommittee will not meet anymore due to the audit having been finished.

The threat assessment committee had not meet. Alvarez said they have been continuing the training needed for the security guards.

Board President

Montenegro thanked everyone for rescheduling the meeting because of conflicts. “The art in the board room is amazing and would love to have some for my home.” It came from the high school art class. She wanted to thank the town, and everyone involved with obtaining the funding for the new recreation center and for locating it next to the high school. She and some of the others had attended the groundbreaking ceremony. “It was a huge effort by so many.” Heather Holguin, principal at 6th Street Elementary School, had extended an invitation to the board to come read to the kindergartners. “I went, and it was such a treat.” She added that she rarely remembers to thank Lisa Lucero, administrative assistant, for all she does to keep them on track. She said she would be emailing Joe Guillen, Ex-Officio Executive Director of the New Mexico School Board Association, about if they had any other boards taking a collective action against PED much like what the superintendents have done. She asked the board to think about doing that.

Board comments

Diaz said she had attended her first SHAC (school advisory council) meeting. She had gone and read to the kindergarten class also and said she had a blast and appreciated the invitation. “The artwork in the board room is amazing and I really appreciate and enjoy it.” She commented on the calendar changes and knew it had been a lot of work and thanked them for getting it done. She had some hard conversations about the bonds. “I know it is hard for people and some are struggling but we want our kids to have a quality education. There are only so many facelifts you can do to a facility.”

Cohn said, “Fabulous artwork in the board room.” He added to the recreation center comments. He really thought it had been great they had the kids do the groundbreaking. “It will be their rec center.” He thanked McCain for having all the information ready and well done for the audit. He also thanked Lucero for all she does for the board. He had also gone to 6th Street Elementary School to read to the kids. “The energy in the school was phenomenal.” It reminded him of the Ron Clark Academy. “The bonds are a hard subject and I hear all aspects. It is like the circle of life, and we have to invest in our community and students.” He encouraged people to come to the board meetings and use their voice to express their concerns. Silver Consolidated School Board will be transparent to the community.

Klement wanted to mirror much of what the other board members had said. She thanked the kids for the art and said creativity fosters a good education. She recognized the library and band for the community showcase they had done in Gough Park, and the Silver City Public Library has some great programs people should check out. She had also read to the kindergartners and had taken her sophomore-aged daughter to read also. Her daughter had also really enjoyed the experience. She added she had attended 6th Street as a child. Klement addressed the mill levy and the situation but said she also didn’t want to see taxes increase. At the current level they can’t keep up and it will have to do something.

Action items

The board approved all requests made by Michelle McCain, finance director. She had checks totaling $3,874,792.44 and budget adjustments. The approval also included donations.

Beck Family Dental – Silver High School Track, $1,000
Grant County Golf Association – Silver High School Golf Team, $500

The next finance committee meeting will take place April 11, 2024.

The next regular work session and board meeting will be April 15, 2024

The board went into closed session.
The board came back into open session and said no action had been taken


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