A reduced Socorro Consolidated School Board meeting schedule for the 2020-2021 was approved last week, amidst controversy.
Superintendent Ron Hendrix told the board, the district had not received the attendance at the programmatic meetings conducted at all the district school's sites.
In the past, the school board had conducted its business meeting the first meeting of the month, and programmatic meetings, the second meeting of the month.
Board member Pauline Jaramillo said she liked traveling to the schools for programmatic meetings. It was way for board members to learn about different education programs offered at the local school as well as highlight the school’s achievements. “Last time we discussed this, we agreed to conduct the business meeting at the first of the month, then we’d have the second meeting to travel to our district schools,” she said.
Other board members didn’t agree with Jaramillo, they wanted to have more town hall style meetings to engage with the public.
Newly elected board member David Hicks noted the recent town hall meeting had more than 45 people engaged in bringing forth more topics for discussion than in a regular board meeting. “We can discuss things and have a real meeting,” he said. “I’d love the opportunity to get together and get more accomplished.”
Michel Hargather, also recently elected, concurred with Hicks. “If we get more town hall meetings, like we’ve had, it fills the gap (of programmatic meetings).
However, Jaramillo reminded board members they need to review and look at what is going on in the local schools. She recommended stay on its current schedule, with a board meeting at the beginning of the month and a programmatic meeting at the schools for the board’s second meeting.
School Board President James Chavez reminded board members the New Mexico Public Education Department frowns on changes.
Superintendent Hendrix noted that town hall meetings or round table discussion fall under the same guidelines of the open meetings act of requiring 10-days notice to the public prior to a meeting. “Programmatic meetings have not been well attended,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of participation.”
Jaramillo suggested one of the reason for the poor participation was school administration doesn’t advertise the programmatic meetings enough.
School administrators had various feelings about the programmatic meetings. However, San Antonio’s lead teacher John Ray Dennis said it was nice to hear about the good things happening in other schools.
On the flip side, Hargather worried that cutting down to 12 meetings a year would limit transparency.
Newly appointed school board member Sharon Sessions said while she’s observing it all, she was concerned that a once a month board meeting was not enough. While there is an opportunity to conduct business as the regular board meeting but there might be more value to having town hall meetings or round table discussion as long as there was not repercussions from the Attorney General.
“We need to get meet more and get things done,” said Hicks. “We can be more aggressive with a town hall meeting and a whole lot of people out there are willing to help us.”
Jaramillo disagreed. She noted the board should be conducting and handling its business at school board meetings in the board meeting room and not at town hall meetings.
Hargather said a reduced meeting schedule could be more effective and not place greater burdens on the school administration and staff.
In a 4 to 1 decision the board agreed to a reduced board meeting schedule: one meeting a month with no programmatic meetings. Board Member Pauline Jaramillo voted against a reduced board meeting schedule.
In other business, the board:
• Approved a plan to cease collection of old food service accounts receivables.
• Was informed by Board Member Pauline Jaramillo health insurance rates for employees are looking at an 8.7 % increase. A lower option would be 2 %.
• Approved the following board representatives to the following schools: Dave Hicks, Parkview; Sharon Sessions, Sarracino; Pauline Jaramillo, Socorro High School; Micahel Hargather, San Antonio and Midway; James Chavez, Cottonwood Valley Charter School.