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New superintendent hosts first RISD board meeting; Members approve salary increase for food service workers, discuss bilingual program

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Dr. Ann McIlroy, James Edwards and Dr. Kathleen Pittman observe as Eden Wiggins receives a New Mexico School Boards Association scholarship, presented by Mona Kirk during the Roswell Independent School District’s school board meeting on Tuesday night. Alan Gedde and Ruben Sanchez stand on the other side of Kirk at the Administrative and Educational Services Complex at 300 N. Kentucky Ave. (Alison Penn Photo)

The Roswell Independent School District (RISD) board voted to approve a salary increase for food workers, discussed matters from the bilingual program to the SystemsGo class, and welcomed Dr. Ann McIlroy to her first monthly school board meeting on Tuesday night.

All of the action items on the agenda, as well as the bars and bills, were approved unanimously by the board.

When Rueben Sanchez, school board vice president, asked Chad Cole, superintendent of finance and operations, to share more information about the food salary increase, Cole said it was a 2-percent increase for all food service workers — including substitutes. Sanchez made the motion, Edward seconded and the measure carried unanimously. For business and finance, Cole said the fiscal year has begun with an approved budget posted and is off to a good start.

The board also approved a job listing for bus drivers, which are difficult to fill according to Chris Thweat, RISD support services coordinator. Brian Byrd, assistant superintendent of human resources, said he appreciated the board sharing the open positions with potential candidates and Thweat suggested that the board continue to get the word out. President Mona Kirk said her goal is to have a highly qualified teacher in every vacant position by the first day of school.

Bilingual presentation 

Andrea Nieto-Walker, director of bilingual/ESL services, presented the bilingual department’s report. Neito-Walker said the bilingual program is a transitional model to support kids in Spanish and transition them to English over time.

“If they’re being supported in their first language with the ELA standards in Spanish, when they get their English — it is much easier to transition and they can move forward without being left behind,” Nieto-Walker said. “So our ultimate goal is to get them to English.”

Neito-Walker shared all of the resources, standards and professional development opportunities for the bilingual program. After being nominated, Nieto-Walker said two teachers representing Roswell have been selected for NM PED taskforce teachers

Kirk asked what support is given to monolingual non-English speakers and Nieto-Walker said a separate class would be done for monolinguals and perhaps having a multilevel class at elementary and middle schools.

Sanchez asked for more specifics on supporting teachers and students, as well as for a review process with progression over the year. McIlroy said a 90-day plan, already used by the school district, could be created for the bilingual program.

James Edward, a school board member, said if a school is not doing well, it should go back to the school and parents. Sanchez said he thought the responsibility should start from the top down with the school creating an even playing field and support for each school. McIlroy said the district should take initiative on how to increase parental participation, which she said was a key component in schools.

Superintendent reports

Dr. McIlroy said she did not have any reports on her sixth day of work, but said it has been a productive first week in familiarizing herself with district personnel.

“I am just so glad to be here and incredibly excited about all of the opportunity that’s coming up, the planning that has been going on, and the fun we’re going to infuse into the school year,” Dr. McIlroy said. “The other thing I would just say is I have been — my husband and I both have just been completely overwhelmed and humbled by the welcome that we have received from not only the people inside this district but from this community.”

Since it was announced in April that she was chosen for the position, McIlroy said she has received cards, texts, emails and calls from a variety of community members. She said she felt truly welcomed and appreciated the food service and friendly people. Thanking the board for the opportunity, McIlroy said she was excited to be here and ready to get everything in motion.

“We are just overjoyed to be part of this community and just really look forward to immersing ourselves here and getting to be a part of growing Roswell and making Roswell more remarkable than it already is.”

In his report, Edwards shared his experience at the SystemsGo New Mexico science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), focusing on the aeroscience program. McIlroy said the teachers and students are provided with a box of parts and must solve the problem to create a rocket and launch it. He said he was able to observe the teacher training that has been happening for the past week. Saying he wished he could have signed up for the class, Edwards said he could see how it increases teacher enjoyment and that will increase their productivity in the classroom.

“Now like I told them, I’m RISD — I’m not just Roswell High anymore,” Britt Cooper, RISD’s new athletic director, said. “I take care of Goddard and four middle schools as well. I’m just pleased to get this opportunity and I appreciate it. I really do.”

At the beginning of the meeting, Eden Wiggins was recognized for being awarded as one of the 24 recipients for the New Mexico Board Association scholarship. Kirk said it was the first time the scholarship was awarded to a Roswell student — that she knew of. The board presented a check and certificate to Wiggins.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.