School issues go to Santa Fe

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The Magdalena school board met Jan. 22 and talked about what could be expected from the Legislative session and state officials.

Superintendent Mike Chambers, who is on the executive board of the New Mexico Association of School Superintendents, said the superintendents group will attend the Legislative session on Jan. 30 and Feb. 13.

One of the items of concern for the superintendents is the new teacher evaluation plan, which will be required by the state beginning in the fall.

The Public Education Department has a tentative agenda for a June or July training for administrators to learn about the teacher evaluation plans but that does not allow for any planning time for school systems to get the evaluations done.

“I have a problem with the way the process goes in place,” Chambers said. “Each person is supposed to be evaluated four times (a year). Evaluations have to be done by an administrator.”

Magdalena Principal Kimberly Ortiz said she thinks the timing of evaluations and not knowing how to administer them until the last minute is going to be a chore.

Chambers talked about how different state interests would be pushing different agendas when it comes to getting New Mexico schools’ budgets planned through the legislative session. He said there are dueling budget plans being pushed by the Legislative Finance Council, Legislative Education Study Committee and PED.

The LESC wants all funding generated through the equalization formula to be above the line, Chambers said. He further explained that below the line funding does not flow through the formula and thus is generally not equitable and is distributed through a grant process which nobody understands. Only the larger New Mexico districts in the Rio Grande corridor get most of the below the line funds. PED is pushing for a lot of below the line funding.

The LESC also wants a 3 percent salary increase for teachers, Chambers said. PED is against a teacher salary increase and the LFC wants a 1 percent salary increase plus an increase in insurance and benefits. LFC also is asking for some funding formula changes – “some help, some hurt,” Chambers said.

“The Legislature and the governor are not going to agree on much of anything,” Chambers said.

Chambers said Magdalena Schools are looking at security proceedings on campus. They want to upgrade cameras and safety procedures. He said he emailed Rep. Don Tripp about possibly getting funding for security and Tripp responded, saying this is going to be a tight year at the Legislature and there would be no help from PED for security issues this year.

Chambers did say there was a recent training with a security specialist and the school’s maintenance, secretaries and cooks about how to handle security situations.

“He (the security specialist) thought we are about as prepared as we probably could be,” Chambers said. “The bottom line is if you get some guy with a gun bent on coming in and doing as much damage as they could, there is not much you can do.”

From the audience, Diane Allen, a village councilor, suggested the marshal could periodically walk through the school so there is a police presence in the schools. Maybe the marshal’s people could sit with the students at lunchtime, too.

In other business Chambers told the board the village of Magdalena wants access to the fire hydrant in the school parking lot. He asked if there were previous agreements and said the first thing to do is establish whose hydrant it is in the first place.

The city wants a gate for access to the hydrant, Chambers said.

“I don’t have money to put a gate in,” he said.

Chambers said during an interview Monday, after a meeting with the village, he thinks they have come to an agreement on a way to get the gate done and access to the hydrant by the village.