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School board limits staff technology use; Board president: Policy revision only intended to affect personal use of cellphones, social media

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Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Chad Cole, left, and Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Brian Byrd listen as members of the Roswell Independent School District Board of Education discuss various issues at a Tuesday night meeting. Cole says taxpayers will save up to $200,000 on the repayment cost of bonds with the approval of a $5.64 million in new bonds at lower interest rates. Another $4.02 million in bonds will be sold to pay for a school construction project. The $4.02 million in bonds are part of the $16 million approved by voters in February 2015. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

The Roswell school board at its Tuesday night meeting authorized the issuance of $9.66 million in bonds previously approved by voters and passed a policy limiting use of cellphones and social media by employees.

In its first meeting shown live on YouTube on the Roswell Independent School District channel, which now has 20 subscribers, board members and Superintendent Susan Sanchez approved several actions, most involving board or district policy revisions.
Third-grade teacher Christina Reyes addressed the board prior to their voting on a technology policy affecting staff. She requested that they consider all the ways that cellphones can be used to aid instruction.
Reyes left the meeting after the vote, in which the three board members attending — Board President Nicole Austin, Vice President Mona Kirk and member James Edward — approved the revised policy, which now states that RISD staff will not use cellphones in classes or near students and will not use social media during the work day.
Reyes chose not to comment about the board’s decision, but, during the meeting, she told board members that she uses her cellphone in numerous ways during class to improve instruction.
The uses, she said, include comparing instructional materials to Common Core standards, measuring student understanding by using applications that allow her to project student responses to questions onto a smart board, managing classroom behavior management, timing student assessments, keeping track of school events through the calendar function, reminding students using the alarm function about necessary tasks and special classes such as occupational or speech therapy, teaching students how to use it as a learning resource, reaching family members during emergencies, and communicating with school administrators and staff via texting, especially during field trips.
“It is my goal during this school year to use a variety of resources and tools to aid in instruction and academic goals for all my students,” Reyes said. “My phone is simply a tool to aid in the achievement of that goal. … In essence, I use my cellphone daily. My phone has many purposes that help my day go a little smoother and save time for me as a teacher. It aids in helping me ultimately achieve the academic goals I set for my students.”
The board members did not discuss her comments before approving the revised policy.
Asked after the meeting about the board’s decision, Austin said that it is her understanding that the policy is not intended and will not be implemented to bar the use of cellphones or social media for instructional purposes, only for personal uses.

Later in the meeting, the board voted to table a policy affecting student use of cellphones and social media so that board members could have more time to consider some of its provisions.
In other action, the board approved the issuing of $9.66 million in bonds. Some of the bonds are part of a $16 million bond election approved by voters in February 2015.
Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Chad Cole told board members that $8 million of the $16 million already has been issued, leaving $8 million. The resolution approved by the board allows the district to sell $4.02 million more of those Series A bonds, to be used primarily to fund the ongoing construction of the Parkview Early Literacy Center. The remaining $4 million will be issued in future years, probably to help fund the construction of the new Del Norte Elementary School building, he said.
The other $5.64 million in Series B bonds approved Tuesday night will refinance existing bond debt.
“In layman’s terms that is essentially like refinancing your mortgage to capture a lower interest rate and lower your cost,” Cole said.
He said refinancing will lower the cost to local taxpayers by an estimated $200,000. He said principal payments are now about $1.4 million annually and interest rates are from 3.25 to 3.75 percent.
“We are hoping to capture an interest rate that is below that in terms of the bond issuance.”
The board also heard some preliminary discussion about re-establishing a local day treatment program for middle school and high school students with substance addiction issues. Judge Freddie Romero of the New Mexico Fifth Judicial District Court in Chaves County said that he will meet this week with representatives of Desert Hills of New Mexico based in Albuquerque to talk about how a program might be created here as way to address students’ needs while also allowing them to remain in school and have ongoing parental involvement in their lives.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.