School Board Meeting Highlights – 9-19-17
Thanks to an anonymous donor, the LCPS Project Link Homeless Education Program will receive $15,000 to assist homeless high school seniors with their transition to higher education, by providing funding for needs not met through district funding such as haircuts, gas for vehicles, bicycles and night accommodations.
“To the anonymous donor, I can’t thank you enough for your support,” said Dr. Greg Ewing, superintendent. “By helping these students to pursue higher education, you have helped to lead them on a path that could change the course of their entire lives.”
At the meeting, the Board officially approved the donation to be given to Project Link. The donation was given to the district by a private donor who wished to remain anonymous. Ewing also commented that the district has more than 300 homeless students at this point in the school year; there were nearly 600 students last school year.
Homeless students are those who don’t have a permanent residence and could include living in a shelter, in a car, with a relative or friend, or in temporary housing such as a motel.
Bond Sales and Bond Rating
Chief Financial Officer Crystal Valdez announced that earlier in the day, LCPS sold $15 million in bonds at a total interest rate of 2.69 percent. The bonds represent the final portion of the general obligation bonds that were approved by local voters during the district’s 2014 school bond election.
“We were able to get favorable rates thanks to our Aa3 bond rating from Moody’s,” Valdez said. “Despite a tumultuous year in educational funding throughout the state this past fiscal year, our bond rating remained stable.”
Valdez also announced that the district refinanced $10 million in bonds at an interest rate of 1.7 percent. The refinanced bonds were from a previous general obligation bond election, and Valdez explained that the refinancing the bonds will save the district approximately $743,000. The bond sales and refinancing were approved at the August 15 Board of Education Meeting.
A stable rating will also positively impact future school bonds. The school district will ask the community to consider a general obligation bond election in February 2018 to build new classrooms, make major repairs throughout the district, and improve security on campuses.
Personnel Budget Percentage Reduction
In a long-term effort to reduce the percentage of the district’s operational budget dedicated to personnel costs, Superintendent Ewing explained that over the course of the next few years, the district is planning to reduce the percentage from the current 90.5 percent to 87.5 percent.
The gradual reduction is part of a broad districtwide effort to build financial reserves, in the wake of major state funding cuts during the previous fiscal year that prompted districtwide budget reductions, officials said.
“What we will need to do in the coming years is shift three percent of those expenditures away from personnel costs,” Ewing said. “There will be no massive layoffs or position cuts, but as attrition occurs, there will be positions we will not fill in order to meet that goal.”
Ewing also informed the School Board that Las Cruces Public Schools is still waiting to receive $700,000 in funding from the New Mexico Public Education Department. The funding was from an approved increase in the State Equalization Guarantee (SEG) that was originally slated to be distributed at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, he said.
Gender-Neutral Restrooms at LCPS Schools
Superintendent Dr. Greg Ewing announced the plans to provide at least one gender-neutral, single-stall restroom at every middle and high school in the district. His comments echoed comments he made earlier this month at the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Rainbow Hub Potluck and Gathering. He said eventually, all schools would add a unisex restroom. A few schools in the district have already identified a gender-neutral restroom after receiving requests from parents who have transgender children enrolled in LCPS.
“By creating a safe, welcoming environment, based on dignity and respect, we can help ensure each and every student learns and grows in a supportive environment,” Ewing stated.
He also mentioned that the newly created LCPS Department of Equity, Innovation and Social Justice has begun to offer training and support to all of the Gay-Straight Student Alliance clubs at the high schools, with the goal of establishing a safe space at each school where students can get support and assistance from a trained LCPS staff member.
Centennial High School Update
Centennial High School Principal Michael Montoya updated the Board of Education about the progress the school has made since it opened approximately six years ago.
“At Centennial, we build positive relationships with all the students to ensure every student on our campus has an opportunity to be successful,” Montoya said.
Montoya mentioned that a variety of the school’s academic and extra-curricular groups have gone on to earn recognitions at the state and national level. He also mentioned that from 2016 to 2017, the school’s special education population improved overall reading proficiency scores from 7.9 percent to 52.5 percent, and math proficiency scores from 6.3 percent to 35.3 percent.
Board Member Ray Jaramillo thanked Montoya for his leadership at the school.
NMDOT Cooperative Agreement Hermosa Heights Parking
The Board of Education approved an agreement between the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) and Las Cruces Public Schools which will partially fund the design and construction of a new parking area for students and staff members at Hermosa Heights Elementary School. As part of the agreement, NMDOT will provide $16,800 in grant funding through the Local Government Road Fund Program and LCPS will provide $5,600 for the project.
The school is currently under construction as a new, larger multipurpose room and kitchen are being built.
New Administrators Announced
Superintendent Ewing announced the appointment of two new district administrators: Ana Candelaria, coordinator with the Dual Language & Migrant Education Department, and Rhonda Spence, special student services administrator with the Special Student Services Department. Chief Human Resources Officer Dr. Miguel Serrano also announced that over the past month, LCPS hired 41 new certified employees and 32 new classified employees.
Athletics Director Appointed NMAA Chairman
Superintendent Dr. Greg Ewing announced that based on votes from activity representatives across the state, LCPS Executive Director of Athletics Ernie Viramontes was elected to a four-year term as Chairman of the New Mexico Activities Association (NMAA) commission at the association’s quarterly meeting Wednesday, Sept. 6. The commission is responsible for proposing recommendations regarding statewide Association policies, rules, regulations and operating procedures to the NMAA Board of Directors.
“Ernie is one of the best athletic directors in New Mexico,” said Superintendent Dr. Greg Ewing. “His dedication to our student athletes and his passion for athletics led him to become an influential figure at the NMAA, so it’s wonderful to see him recognized by his colleagues.”
In his new role at the NMAA, Viramontes will serve alongside LCPS Superintendent Dr. Greg Ewing as a voting member of the Board of Directors. LCPS is currently the only district with two voting members on the Board.
Board Appointments to Ethnic Studies and Restorative Justice Task Force
The Board of Education appointed Board President Maria Flores, Board Member Maury Castro, and Board Member Terrie Dallman to the Ethnic Studies Task Force and Board Vice President Ed Frank and Board Secretary Ray Jaramillo to the Restorative Justice Task Force.
For more information, contact: LCPS Communications Coordinator,