Voicing a chorus of concerns from his fellow students, Cameron Castillo, Centennial High School student and Student Advisory Council (SAC) member, denounced the New Mexico Public Education Department’s proposed changes to the state’s science teaching standards during his student advisor report at the Oct. 17 Board of Education Meeting.

“The PED officials who proposed these changes should be ashamed of themselves. The idea that these officials would change these standards based on what they think, in contrast to scientific fact, is appalling,” Castillo said. “Although these changes may seem insignificant now, not presenting factual evidence to our students would corrupt our education system at every level.”

Castillo’s rebuke of the PED’s proposed changes to the Next Generation Science Standards echoed comments made recently by Superintendent Dr. Greg Ewing and the Board of Education.

On a separate topic, Castillo also discussed the SAC’s preliminary recommendation to allow security guards at middle and high schools to carry weapons.

“From a student’s perspective, if this is something which could help protect our students and staff, it is something we need to support,” Castillo said.

Formed in 2016, the SAC was developed to provide students with a venue to discuss and provide student feedback about school operations and district policies. The council is composed of student representatives from all LCPS high schools and faculty advisors.

Administration Personnel Changes

Officials announced the retirement of CrossRoads Program Director and School Attendance Administrator Joe Mestres. Mestres was also a former LCPS Principal. Officials also announced that the CrossRoads long-term suspension program will now be under the direction of Chief Officer of Equity, Innovation and Social Justice Dr. Roberto Lozano. As part of the change, the district is planning to incorporate restorative justice practices into the program.

Also retiring from LCPS in November is Chief Financial Officer Crystal Valdez.

“In my 30 years in this business, I haven’t seen someone who can run numbers like Crystal can,” said LCPS Superintendent Dr. Greg Ewing. “I can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done.”

In addition to the retirements, Ewing announced that Robin Quillen has been appointed as the new Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent’s Office. Ewing also mentioned that the search process for a new CFO and Program Director for the CrossRoads Programs is already underway.

Chief Human Resources Officer Dr. Miguel Serrano announced that over the past month, LCPS hired 16 new certified employees and 56 new classified employees.

Recognitions

Superintendent Dr. Greg Ewing recognized Oñate High School (OHS) Security Guards Ruben Benavidez and Michael Pando and OHS School Resource Officer Julian Gomez for detaining an unauthorized trespasser at OHS who was found to be carrying a BB gun. Ewing also commended a CrossRoads student for helping to assist school staff after an employee cut himself on a plate of glass while replacing a window at the school. “Despite all the commotion, this young man maintained his composure and helped our staff during this stressful situation,” Ewing said.

LCPS Foundation Awards $31,000 in Teacher Grants

LCPS Foundation Executive Director Betsy Geery announced that the LCPS Foundation awarded $31,004 in teacher grants. For more information about the grants, read the separate news release about the grants.

Students Lead First Bilingual Board Meeting Pledge

Students from J. Paul Taylor Academy charter school led the first bilingual recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance at an LCPS Board of Education Meeting. The students led the room full of students, staff, parents and board members in reciting the Pledge in English and then Spanish, using a word chart to help the audience follow along. Following the Pledge, the students also recited the salute to the flag of New Mexico in English and Spanish.

At the Oct. 3 Board of Education Meeting, the Board of Education unanimously approved a proposal to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish, on occasion, at future Board meetings.

“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.”

SNAP Ed Grant Approved

The Board of Education approved the 2018 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education Grant which will provide the district with $279,799 to be used for activities to promote nutrition education and obesity prevention initiatives. This is the 13th consecutive year LCPS has received the grant from the United States Department of Agriculture.

“This grant is used for a wide range of activities such as nutrition lessons, a healthy eating active living student video competition and many of the school gardens,” said Executive Director of Operations and Nutrition Services Nancy Cathey. “This grant has also helped us implement activity party kits for the students. These kits provide an alternative to traditional birthday parties where students participate in a variety of fun, outdoor activities.”

Cathey also mentioned that, thanks to the grant funding, Picacho, Zia, Vista, Lynn and Sierra Middle schools are in the process of working with the New Mexico State University NMSU extension master gardeners to develop hydroponic gardens at each of their respective schools.

“In our office, we refer to this as the Barbara Berger grant, because for the past 13 years Barbara has successfully written this grant proposal,” Cathey said, in reference to Health and Nutrition Specialist Barbara Berger, a long-time LCPS employee who has developed a wide range of districtwide health initiatives.

The Board of Education also approved a contract between the LCPS Nutrition Services and Lutheran Mission Church pre-school that will allow the department to provide meals to the pre-school program.

Board Approves $1 Step Increase for all Certified Employees

The Board of Education approved a step increase of $1 for all certified employees. The $1 increase represents the amount required by state statue to move employees up a step, which directly correlates to how much state funding the district will receive next year, based on experience.

According to CFO Crystal Valdez, “the increase is a procedural step to provide the PED with the most accurate reflection of our certified employees’ collective training and experience.” Before it can be implemented, the increase will also require the PED’s approval.

NEA-LC agreed to the increase, with the understanding that bargaining negotiations for certified employee salaries are still ongoing.

Budget Update

Superintendent Dr. Greg Ewing has asked the district’s legal counsel to review a state statute that Ewing contends should provide LCPS with an additional $16.00 per student in state equalization guarantee funding from the PED. If the funds are provided, this would equate to nearly $700,000 for LCPS. The Superintendent continues to keep the Board and the public informed about any budgetary changes.

Chief Academic Officer to Serve on Bridge Board

Superintendent Dr. Greg Ewing appointed Chief Academic Officer Erlinda Martinez to serve as the LCPS representative on the Bridge of Southern New Mexico Board. The Board is composed of education and business officials from throughout the community.

The organization is a collaborative public-private community initiative designed to support efforts that lead to annual increases in graduation/completion rates for high school, community college, and university students and align career and technical education opportunities with the current and future needs of business and industry to build a strong, competitive 21st Century workforce, according to the organization’s website.

Board Grants Conditional Approval of New Subdivision Review

The Board of Education granted a conditional approval of the Doña Ana County Community Development Department’s request for subdivision review of Vista Rancho Phase I, a new proposed subdivision which would sit adjacent to Columbia Elementary School and Vista Middle School.

Since the Board expressed their concerns about potential drainage issues and the impact of construction near the schools, the review was given a conditional approval that will require the concerns be addressed, prior to approval.

Recent Board Member Activities

Board President Maria Flores

  • Participated in a social justice exhibit at the Branigan Cultural Center
  • Participated in the Las Cruces Police Chief selection process
  • Attended a school sports event

Board Vice President Ed Frank

  • Participated in an NgageNM early childhood education activity
  • Participated in a Restorative Justice Task Force meeting
  • Participated in a school academic awards assembly

Board Secretary Ray Jaramillo

  • Participated in an NgageNM early childhood education activity
  • Participated in a Restorative Justice Task Force meeting
  • Participated in a school academic awards assembly
  • Participated in several Walk to School Day events

Board Member Maury Castro

  • Participated in a school academic awards assembly

Board Member Terrie Dallman

  • Participated in an NgageNM early childhood education activity
  • Participated in a school academic awards assembly
  • Attended a social justice exhibit at the Branigan Cultural Center

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