In preparation for the statewide transition to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) set to go into effect across the state on July 1, Dr. Wendi Miller-Tomlinson, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, outlined how the district plans to implement the new science standards into the districtwide science instruction.

“Here at LCPS we’re taking these new standards and we’re using this as an opportunity to revamp our science instruction K-12, particularly at the high school level,” Miller-Tomlinson said. “This will hopefully provide better opportunities for students interested in science.”

According to the NGSS website, the NGSS are research-based K–12 science content standards that set the expectations for what students should know and be able to do to prepare them for college, careers, and citizenship. New Mexico is set to adopt the standards, as written, with addition of six standards specific to New Mexico.

“This past fall, the Teaching and Learning Center staff worked with teachers to develop instruction guides for science instruction, based on the NGSS,” she said. “Over the next few months, about 60 volunteer teachers will use those guides and provide their feedback so we can make any revisions, prior to the districtwide rollout.”

The instructional guides provide a manageable scope and sequence to teachers in which they teach three units of science (Earth, Physical, and Life) for 90 minutes per week. At the middle school level, the district is already using NGSS, since the standards were implemented nearly three years ago, district officials said.

New Complaint & Investigation Framework

Superintendent Dr. Greg Ewing announced that the LCPS Human Resources Department, in conjunction with the district’s legal counsel, has developed a framework, process and training to assist with employee and/or student complaints and investigations.

“Having a fair and equitable process for complaints and investigations helps to ensure every employee and student is treated with dignity and respect,” Ewing said.

To coincide with the new framework, Attorney Elena Gallegos, of Walsh Gallegos, explained several proposed changes to district regulations regarding employee and student investigations. She explained that the changes are meant to ensure consistent alignment with the Board of Education policies.

“We identified some very minor inconsistencies between the regulations and the board policies,” Gallegos said. “This alignment process will help to ensure investigations comply with the board policies, the collective bargaining agreements and the proper authorities.”

Since the Board of Education sets all policies for the district, regulations are designed to implement those policies, based on the administration’s interpretation of the policies.

Ewing said that district officials will utilize feedback from the Board for any proposed changes to the regulations.

“We really appreciate this alignment, I think it’s needed.” said Board President Maria Flores.

Dr. Lozano to Assist Legislature in Santa Fe

Superintendent Dr. Greg Ewing announced that at the request of members of the legislature, LCPS Chief Officer of Equity, Innovation and Social Justice Dr. Roberto Lozano will spend four weeks, starting Monday, Jan. 18, providing recommendations to the New Mexico House of Representatives about any bills related to education. “We are very proud to have a member of our own executive cabinet team participate in a legislative process which ultimately impacts everyone who works in education throughout New Mexico,” Ewing said.

Budget Update

Superintendent Dr. Greg Ewing once again mentioned that LCPS has received no response from the Public Education Department in reference to the distribution of additional SEG revenue which equates to nearly $700,000 in funding for the district.

Late last year, Ewing and the Board of Education sent 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. During the first special session of the 2017, the legislature appropriated $10 million in funding to the PED to offset any deficiencies that would result from the PED increasing the unit value.

Ewing also mentioned that LCPS is set to begin developing the 2018/19 budget, which begins in July.

“We are dedicated to building our budget through a public and open process and we would like to invite all stakeholders to participate in the process,” Ewing said. “It’s important to remember that much of the money from our various accounts has state or federal spending and reporting requirements associated with it.”

Ewing also announced that staffing allotments for schools will be posted to district website and that the district is continuing to explore ideas to reduce the percentage of the district’s operational budget dedicated to personnel costs. In 2017, 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.

“What we will need to do in the coming years is shift some of those expenditures away from personnel costs,” Ewing said. “We will begin to make recommendations to the board about how we can slowly reduce that percentage. We didn’t get there overnight, so this will be a gradual shift and these recommendations will take some time.”

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.

NEA-LC & CSEC-LC Reports

Both CSEC-LC President Irma Valdespino and NEA-LC President Wendy Alberson applauded the creation of the employee and student complaint and investigation framework.

“I’m glad to see the creation of this new investigation process and training. In the past, I had expressed some concerns about this to the administration,” Valdespino said.

Facilities Update

LCPS Construction Project Technician Martin Vasquez gave a brief presentation about several of the ongoing construction projects happening throughout the district. During the presentation, after Board President Maria Flores and Board Member Terrie Dallman expressed concerns about students having access to construction areas, Ewing said the district will work with the contractors to ensure that students don’t have direct access to active construction zones.

Meanwhile, the school board unanimously approved the purchase of a property across the street from MacArthur Elementary School which will serve as an additional parking lot for the school.

Pilot for Online Kindergarten Registration

Director of Student Information Systems Christina Mullins announced that LCPS will pilot a new online registration process for incoming kindergarten students at Sonoma, Mesilla, Mesilla Park, and University Hills Elementary Schools.

“Currently the parents use paper and pencil, so the new process would help simplify enrollment and provide a more efficient and cost-effective process for the district,” Mullins said.

The new program allow parents to enter registration information online and then verify it during the onsite registration sessions at each school. Mullins explained parents will be able to view the registration forms in multiple languages. Those without access to a computer or mobile device could still register in person during a school registration session.

Mullins said that depending on the success of the pilot program, the process could eventually be implemented at additional schools.

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