The New Mexico Public Education Department’s (NMPED) proposed changes to the social studies End of Course (EOC) assessment blueprint drew a variety of concerns from LCPS officials and board members at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday, Nov. 14. The assessment is a state-mandated U.S. History test for students in grades nine through 12.

“The blueprint shows teachers what standards will be tested on the end of course exam,” said Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Dr. Wendi Miller-Tomlinson. “It’s reasonable to assume that by omitting these topics on the EOC assessment, teachers will not be covering them as extensively as the content the students will be tested on.”

Miller-Tomlinson explained that since the end of course exam has a direct impact on student test scores, graduation requirements and teacher evaluations, teachers may not be able to adequately cover the omitted topics, many of which carry immense historical importance. Some of the items omitted from the blueprint include questions about historical figures Rosa Parks and Malcolm X, the 1945 atomic bomb attacks on Japan, the process of how a bill becomes law and the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling.

“These strike-outs are ridiculous, because once you cross something off a teacher’s list, it’s out the door. These topics are simply too important to be overlooked, said Board President Maria Flores. “In my opinion, these omissions are a futile exercise by the PED.”

“I find it strange that in the 21st century figures like Rosa Parks are being removed from a teaching curriculum,” added LCPS Superintendent Dr. Greg Ewing.

Miller-Tomlinson also expressed her concerns about the blueprint development process mentioning that the PED’s annual blueprint redevelopment process remains unclear.

Ewing said he will work with his staff to draft a letter to the PED outlining the concerns over the proposed changes.

2018 Bond Election Update

If the next school bond election is passed, the school tax rate will not go up. That assurance comes from the district’s bond counsel, who presented a Resolution to the School Board calling for a February 6, 2018 election.  The Board approved the Resolution and gave a final thumbs-up to the list of $50 million in capital outlay projects that will be funded if voters approve the measure. Paul Cassidy of RBC said the tax rate would remain level for taxpayers.

The $50 million is earmarked for new classrooms; multipurpose rooms and kitchens; safety doors, fencing and gates; improved athletic facilities; major renovations and repairs; furniture; funds for the Americans with Disabilities Act compliance; phase I of an updated physical plant, nutrition services and operations facility; roofs and heating & cooling improvements; playground structures; and more. Anyone who is a registered voter within the school district will be eligible to vote next February.

Community Outreach Liaison Brigitte Zigelhofer announced that Ben Woods has agreed to chair the citizen-based “blue ribbon committee.” Composed of community members, parents and voters, the committee is designed help raise community awareness about the district’s needs and assist with private donations to support the 2018 general obligation bond campaign. No LCPS funds will be used in the committee’s awareness campaign.

“Ben has always been integral to our school bond elections, and we’re pleased to have his support as chairman,” Zigelhofer said. Woods is currently an administrator at MountainView Regional Hospital, a member of the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce board of directors, a member of the U.S. Bank board of directors and just recently completed a four-year term as an LCPS Foundation board member. Prior to his retirement, Woods was formerly the New Mexico State University president’s chief of staff

Zigelhofer mentioned that the committee’s first meeting will take place Thursday, Nov. 30 at 4:30 p.m. in the LCPS Administration Building Board Room. She also invited anyone interested in joining the committee to contact her directly at: (575) 527-6014 or bzigelho@lcps.net.

CSEC Report

President of the Classified School Employees Council-Las Cruces (CSEC) Irma Valdespino announced during the NEA/CSEC agenda item that bargaining negotiations have been underway with the district since June 2017.  She said both sides have worked hard trying to reach an agreement.  However, Valdespino said that during the Nov. 15 bargaining session, the management team “gave their last-best offer.”  She said the offer forced the CSEC team to declare impasse which stops further negotiations.  She announced that “CSEC-LC in good conscience cannot accept the district’s last-best offer.”  She explained that the district’s offer regarding salaries did not include step increases and did not cover the increase of health care costs for its members.  She said health care costs continue to rise while salaries remain stagnant. Valdespino said it was a difficult decision but felt the impasse should be announced publicly. Comments from the district’s team could not be discussed publicly because there was no agenda item permitting management to do so.

Recognitions

Superintendent Dr. Greg Ewing recognized Josiah Barrera, a 5th grader at Highland Elementary School, who used the Heimlich maneuver to save a fellow 5th grader, Max Miller, from choking. Barrera has never received any formal training to learn the Heimlich maneuver and instead saw it performed on an episode of Chicago Med.

Ewing also recognized Rio Grande Preparatory Institute teacher Kelsey Armijo for being named the 2017 New Mexico Graduation Reality and Dual-Role Skills (GRADS) New Teacher of the Year. The GRADS program provides support for current and expecting teen parents in our high schools. Kelsey was recognized for her work mentoring her students, working with her school’s support staff, and creation of a website to help support her students.

Budget Updates

Superintendent Dr. Greg Ewing once again mentioned a formal notice has been sent to the PED about the distribution of additional SEG revenue which equates to nearly $700,000 in funding for the district.

At the Nov. 7 work session, the Board of Education approved a letter requesting that the PED Secretary-Designate Christopher Ruszkowski allocate funding appropriated by the legislature to increase the unit value by $16 per student under the State Equalization Guarantee. Earlier this year, during the first special session of the year, the legislature appropriated $10 million in funding to the PED to offset any deficiencies that would result from the PED increasing the unit value.

Interim Chief Financial Officer Ed Ellison announced that the district’s training and experience multiplier increased by .003 percent. Equating to roughly a $475,000 increase in funding for the 2018-19 school year.

Student Meal Donation

The Board of Education approved a $13,000 donation by Organ Mountain Outfitters to be used for unpaid reduced-price meal charges. In total, the local apparel company has donated more than $20,000, as a way to help offset the cost of unpaid LCPS meal charges.

“It’s wonderful to see a company partnering with our district to support our students,” said Superintendent Dr. Greg Ewing.

In 2016, the company pledged to donate 10% of the proceeds from its t-shirt sales, which amounts to $2.00 from every t-shirt sale. To-date, the company has donated enough funding to provide 50,000 reduced-price lunches.

“The donations will support families that are already eligible to receive reduced-price lunches which cost 40-cents, per meal,” said Nancy Cathey, executive director of operations and nutrition services. “Since there hundreds of families that do not meet the income threshold for free meals at school, this will help them with the cost of the reduced-price option.”

Announcements

Superintendent Dr. Greg Ewing announced that he and Board President Maria Flores will travel to Washington D.C. on Nov. 29 to address how elevated immigration enforcement efforts have negatively affected student attendance and behavior.

“We were invited by the policy director from congressional Hispanic caucus to speak about our district’s experiences,” Ewing said. “I will eagerly discuss what our students endure, every day, under the current policies.” Flores added, “We certainly intended to be bold with our statements.”

Amicus Brief Support

The Board and Superintendent voted to support an amicus brief, which pertains to a transgender student in another state who has been forbidden from using the school restroom corresponding to his gender identity. An amicus brief is a document filed in court by someone who is not directly related to the case under consideration. This is the second amicus brief approved by the Las Cruces School Board in support of the rights of transgender students. The new brief pertains to a transgender student, cited in Adams v. School Board of St. Johns County, which is pending in Florida U.S. District Court. The Board also signed onto a brief last February relating to a transgender student in Virginia. There are no costs to LCPS to support the briefs.

Recent Board Member Activity

Board President Maria Flores

  • Participated in a celebration at University Hills Elementary School for the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge
  • Participated in a meeting with the New Mexico State University regents
  • Attended the Mayfield High School Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica Induction Ceremony
  • Spoke with Senator Martin Heinrich to update him about Las Cruces Public Schools
  • Participated in a panel hosted by Wise Latina International

Board Vice President Ed Frank

  •  Participated in Jornada Elementary School’s Inaugural Red Ribbon Parade
  • Attended an LCPS Restorative Justice Task Force Meeting

Board Secretary Ray Jaramillo

  • Participated in Jornada Elementary School’s Inaugural Red Ribbon Parade
  • Attended the Southern New Mexico Kids Count Conference
  • Attended an LCPS Restorative Justice Task Force Meeting
  • Served as the Keynote speaker at the Mayor’s Top Teens Award Ceremony
  • Attended a New Mexico State University Regents Meeting

Board Member Maury Castro

  • Attended an Anthony Chamber of Commerce luncheon

Board Member Terrie Dallman

  • Attended Booker T. Washington Elementary School’s First Annual Halloween Parade
  • Visited Valley View Elementary School
  • Attended the Southern New Mexico Kids Count Conference
  • Attended a New Mexico State University symposium

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