Superintendent Dr. Greg Ewing expressed his concerns about the New Mexico Public Education Department’s proposed New Mexico STEM-Ready Science Standards during the Oct. 3 Board of Education Work Session. The proposed standards would modify the existing Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) which are currently being used.

“There is great concern that omissions in standards that support conceptual understanding of complex systems will have a lasting detrimental impact on science education, “ Ewing said. “The removal of terminology such as evolution and climate change flies in the face of the evidence accepted by the majority of the scientific community. These omissions dilute the accuracy of key scientific concepts that may forever impact the science literacy of students. Such a policy decision would marginalize New Mexico students and render them less able to compete with their peers across the nation and the globe.”

Ewing’s concerns, which were unanimously echoed by the Board of Education, were outlined in a letter that is scheduled to be sent to the NMPED Acting Secretary in the coming days.

President of NEA-LC Bruce Hartman also expressed his concerns about proposed changes the science standards.

Comcast Donates $18,000

Months after hundreds of volunteers spent a day beautifying the Tombaugh Elementary School campus for Comcast Cares Day, the Comcast Foundation presented the LCPS Foundation with a check for $18,556.30. The donation was based on the total number of people who volunteered for the Comcast Cares Day event and will be split evenly by the foundation and the school, according to LCPS Community Outreach Liaison Brigitte Zigelhofer.

“This donation is the icing on the cake. The monetary support, in addition to the completely transformed campus, is more than I could have ever asked for,” said TES Principal Guillermo Carmona. “I would like to thank Comcast and all of the community members who worked hard to beautify our campus.”

In addition to the donation, Comcast also partnered with Allen Theaters to provide free movie tickets to the classes that brought the most volunteers to the Comcast Cares Day event.

“It’s been a true blessing to work with Tombaugh this past year,” said Comcast New Mexico State Director John Christopher. According to the Comcast website, Comcast Cares Day is the nation’s largest single-day corporate volunteer event. The Comcast Foundation is the charitable giving arm of Comcast Corporation.

Board Approves Pledge in Spanish

The Board of Education unanimously approved a proposal to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish, on occasion, at future Board of Education meetings. The recitation would be in addition to the English version which is currently recited during every Board meeting.

“The beauty of multilingualism is that you can convey a single concept in many different languages,” said Board Member Terrie Dallman. “We would like to make our school district inclusive, so I support the proposal 100 percent.”

Testing Audit Update

District officials once again discussed a National Education Association of Las Cruces (NEA-LC) testing audit report that assessed the time requirements, benefits and usefulness of state-mandated standardized tests. The survey of 649 K-12 teachers found that in some cases, more than 100 days per school year were directly impacted by the administration of site-, district- or state-mandated tests.

“I can assure you that we will never punish a principal or teacher based solely on test scores,” Ewing said. “Teachers need the freedom to teach. They do not have to require any test that is not state- or federal-mandated.”

LCHS Academy Model Presentation

Las Cruces High School Principal Jed Hendee led a presentation describing the school’s newly implemented academy model. Funding for the new model was provided through a 2015 grant.

“Since the school has undergone a major physical transformation, we wanted to find way to transform the school academically, as well,” Hendee said. “The new model was designed to provide equity of opportunity for students and better prepare students for college and career readiness”

Members of his school visited several Georgia schools that currently use the academy model to help structure their own program. Under the new model, students are placed into one of three academies based on career interests. Within those academies, students participate in career-specific classes, in addition to their traditional high school curriculum, that are designed to help the students achieve career training and certifications by the time they graduate.

The school’s three academies—Communication, Arts and Business; Science, Technology, Engineering and Math; and Health and Human Services—were selected to align with the State of New Mexico’s most in-demand careers.

New Administrators Announced

Superintendent Ewing announced the appointment of six new district administrators: Susie Hendee was named Principal of Central Elementary School; Matt Dawkins was promoted to Director of Information Technology; Soñia Saiz was named Coordinator of Psychology, Social Work and Counseling; Kimberly Greene, Dr. Freda Trujillo and Cary Flores were named as Special Student Services Administrators.

Civics Education and Youth Engagement/Excel Program Update

Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Dr. Wendi Miller-Tomlinson gave a brief presentation about the civics education curriculum for students in the district and updated the Board of Education about the success of the EXCEL program.

Miller-Tomlinson discussed how civics education is already incorporated into the curriculum at all levels and suggestions to emphasize the core concepts of civics education. Civics education is defined by the Education Commission of the states as the study of how people participate in governing society.

Miller-Tomlinson also explained that the Excel career education program has placed career and technical education specialists at all the comprehensive high schools to provide support for students and school counseling staff.

Safety Goals with Technology

Director of Information Technology Matt Dawkins described several safety and security-related technology projects which are currently being implemented at schools across the district. The projects include additional keycard-controlled access doors at 22 schools, six additional surveillance cameras at elementary schools, 15 additional cameras at middle schools and 35 additional cameras at high schools, upgrading the intercom systems at six schools and upgrading the fire alarm systems at four schools. All of the projects are funded by general obligation bonds that were approved by local voters during the district’s 2014 school bond election. Dawkins said that all of the upgrades will likely be completed by June 2018.

2018 Bond Committee Update

Deputy Superintendent for Operations Gabe Jacquez discussed several preliminary recommendations that the 2018 bond committee has proposed for the $50 million in general obligation bond funding that will be proposed to the voters in February 2018.

The recommendations included a broad range of projects from Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems to classroom additions, to major renovations.

Jacquez also mentioned that prices for construction and construction supplies materials are expected to increase, due in part to the abundance of recent natural disasters across the country.

Water Testing Update

Deputy Superintendent Gabe Jacquez announced that the district is continuing to explore a proposal to test for hard metals in the water at LCPS schools. Jacquez said district officials have already sent water samples from one school for testing and they are currently discussing the cost, benefits and feasibility of implementing the proposal throughout the district.

“The water quality of the water entering our school buildings is assured by the City of Las Cruces under a federal mandate…the City consistently tests all the water for a wide range of things, including hard metals, and they have consistently met all of their water quality goals,” said Director of the Physical Plant Department Bobby Stout. “This measure would be a proactive approach to verify those assurances.”

Safety and Security Update

Executive Director for Operations Nancy Cathey announced the creation of the LCPS Public Safety Department which combines the security and safety and the transportation and risk management departments into one unified department. Cathy described current staffing levels for school security, mentioning that there are currently 30 security guards who work at middle schools and high schools throughout the district. Plus, there are 10 armed School Resource Officers (SRO) who also work at various middle schools and high schools. These SROs are allowed to carry weapons as part of their duty as police officers.

Cathey also mentioned that a change to an LCPS Policy now allows Director of Public Safety Todd Gregory, a former Las Cruces Police Department officer, to carry a weapon on LCPS campuses. Any other security personnel, such as security guards would need authorization for carrying a concealed weapon.

International Welcome Centers

Dr. Roberto Lozano, chief equity, innovation and social justice officer, described the newly created international welcome centers located at the four comprehensive LCPS high schools. The centers are centralized locations that provide supplemental services to immigrant, migrant, international, and English learner students and their families.

“For our teachers, these centers have helped with the testing process for bilingual students and allowed our schools to better assess transcripts from international students,” Lozano said.

School Advisory Council Policy Amended

The Board of Education approved a change to Policy KCB, School Advisory Councils, that replaced a reference to the No Child Left Behind Act with a reference to the Every Student Succeeds Act. The minor change was required after the Act was renamed in 2015. The policy change will allow the associated regulation to be significantly adjusted, which will, in turn, help streamline the process of creating school advisory councils, and appointing the membership.

-LCPS Communications Coordinator Paul Dahlgren, pdahlgren@lcps.net, (575) 527-5808