Magdalena superintendent earns contract extention

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Superintendent Mike Chambers received a vote of confidence at the Magdalena School Board meeting held Jan. 17. The board renewed his contract and gave him a one-year extension covering the end of the 2013 school year through 2014. The executive board met in closed session to discuss the superintendent’s evaluation prior to its programmatic meeting. Upon completion of the agenda, the board met privately, deliberating for about an hour.

Chambers’ contract remains essentially unchanged, with final salary approval pending the legislature’s allocations for education in the current session. Chambers’ current salary is $106,000, including benefits.

“I’m grateful for the support of the board,” Chambers said. “We’re going to keep working on improvement. More positive changes are what we need.”

School Board President Gail Armstrong was staunchly enthusiastic about Chambers, his leadership of the district, and the overall hard work of the teaching staff.

“From my side, the superintendent has done a tremendous job,” she said. “In tough times, he has made sure we’ve done well on a fiscal level. Our school is looking its best as far as equipment and classrooms. Improvements are in the works as to raising student academic achievement.”

Armstrong had additional praise for the district under Chambers’ leadership.

“Our schools are good schools with great teachers,” she said.

Armstrong praised Chambers for his comprehensive approach to a district with a significantly depressed economy, citing the breakfast and lunch program, after-school tutoring and the availability of transportation for students.

“Kids have a sense that someone cares about them and their future,” she said. “He is not just an administrator, he has two kids in school here ― he’s a parent. He’s someone who cares.”

The New Mexico Public Education Department recently gave the middle and elementary schools a D grade, and the high school received a C.

In a review of recent MAP scores, Chambers’ “get focused on achievement” strategy appears to be beginning to paying off. Reading and math scores improved, with the elementary school achieving points for reading and writing at a C level. The middle school was not far behind, with points totaling very close to achieving a C. The high school garnered points close to a B level. Principals Regina Lane and Kitty Martin said they believed additional increases would be more visible in measuring student test scores from fall 2011 to spring 2012.

To take student competency to the next level, district staff will also participate in the State Performance Improvement Project, paid for by a state grant. The first part consists of administrators and staff attending strategic instructional training in Albuquerque. Consultants will then come to the district, observe teaching techniques and strategize with staff to maximize teaching effectiveness and raise student progress rates.

Staying in the Black

Business Manager Dorothy Zamora presented the results from the recent state financial audit. She said the district passed with flying colors.

“I’m happy to report that we received an unqualified rating. There were no findings. Some weaknesses were seen,” Zamora said. “This is the best rating you can receive.”

The superintendent brought before the board one of the weaknesses cited in the audit. Current state policy requires districts to forego any method of purchase that can accrue interest. Auditors indicated they wanted the district to stop the use of credit cards. The district has a Sam’s Club card and a Walmart card, and two American Express cards, used for day-to-day expenses.

“I’ll stop using the cards today, if that’s what you direct,” he said. “But we use those cards to save money for the district and handle things like travel.”

Zamora further clarified the district’s purchasing policies.

“We use purchase orders for everything and we pay all bills as they come in on a monthly basis,” she said. “We also have open accounts with vendors, which could also be construed as an interest bearing account, but we don’t carry a balance. Their response doesn’t make sense.”

Board member Randell Major had a simple response to the district’s buying practices.

“It would be more difficult to track, and too expensive in buying supplies and gas,” he said.

No motion to change current buying policy occurred.

Other Business

Chambers made the board aware of two significant additional costs that emerged in the demolition of the old agriculture building. In the first, contractors claimed there were no starters or disconnects for welding stations in the old building prior to demolition and wanted to charge the district $4,500 for new ones. The superintendent disputed the charges and provided photographic evidence of the equipment in question to resolve the matter.

In the second item, contractors doing recent dirt work for the new agriculture building inadvertently destroyed several electrical transformers. Replacement costs for new ones will total $15,000.

High School Principal Regina Lane presented the board with copies of the intervention material given to students engaging in bullying activity as part of the district’s bully proofing program. Using the Discipline Learning Packet System, students under the guidance of their teachers complete a questionnaire addressing negative behaviors. There are 16 possible behaviors targeted. Some of the categories include:

  • Being bossy
  • Coercion
  • Being disrespectful of others
  • Embarrassing others
  • Excluding others
  • Intimidation
  • Unprovoked aggression
  • Hitting or kicking

“I review all the responses. So do the teachers and counseling staff,” Lane said. “This is one part of making the school a safe environment.”

 


-- Email the author at lalvarado@dchieftain.com.