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School Board Association prepares Region VI for election

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Joe Guillen, the New Mexico School Board Association executive director, and Dymorie Marker, the Region VI president and school board member at Lovington Municipal School District, address superintendents and school board members at the NMSBA’s regional meeting on Monday night at 400 W. First St. Dexter Elementary School. (Alison Penn Photo)

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The Roswell Independent School District’s (RISD) superintendent and school board members joined Region VI school districts in attending the New Mexico School Board Association’s (NMSBA) fall regional meeting at Dexter Elementary School on Monday night. Artesia, Carlsbad, Dexter, Eunice, Hagerman, Hobbs, Jal, Lake Arthur, Loving, Lovington, Roswell and Tatum are included in Region VI.

No action was taken, but rather presentations were held on the challenges the state’s public schools are facing — topics including the Yazzie/Martinez vs. New Mexico lawsuit, lack of funding and preparation for the General Election in November and the education election to be held in February. The attendees were served dinner while the Dexter High School Choir entertained them with music.

“The sufficiency in funding decision that has just recently come to us, the new revenue projections, the new administration in Santa Fe, our legislative resolutions process — so all of these things are very timely,” Joe Guillen, the NMSBA executive director, said.

Guillen said NMSBA’s resolutions and legislative committee meeting will be next Thursday and that about 30 resolutions pertaining to “everything of course from funding, the Local Election Act, school safety.” Guillen said it is time to be talking to the gubernatorial candidates who will appoint new members in order for school officials to join committees or be involved in other ways.

At the beginning of the meeting, Dymorie Maker, the Region VI president and school board member at Lovington Municipal School District, asked each district present to select one thing about their district to share with the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED). Overwhelmingly, the various districts said the students were the top priority — they’re more than a score on standardized test results — and the schools are underfunded.

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“Continue to advocate for the funding and local decision making,” Maker said. “I don’t know any of us that want to see any of that get smaller and we consistently know that Lovington wants what works for Lovington, Roswell wants what works for Roswell, Tatum wants what works for Tatum, and so on and so on — but we can all do great things for our students and they (do) not need to look identical — definitely advocate for that.”

Stan Rounds, executive director of New Mexico Coalition Education Leaders (NMCEL) and Schools Superintendent Association, echoed Guillen’s statement that how that money should be spent should take careful consideration. Rounds said he has various struggles from superintendents across the state and said there is a proposal to backfill the void of the last five years in funding and in transportation.

“You’ve talked about messages for the Public Education Department,” Rounds said. “I’d like you to think really hard about those messages post-November 6 because it’s going to be very important from the time we have the General Election until whoever wins the governorship, that you are actively involved in trying to influence their decision about who sits in the secretary’s chair and what the policies or what azimuth they will use in education.”

Maker said the schools need to speak out on their portion of the windfall. To explain her point that $1.2 billion is a significant sum, Maker shared an analogy she heard on the radio where a superintendent was given a billion $1 bills to throw one at a time in a trashcan. She explained that the superintendent, regardless of age, would die before they could fill the trashcan.

Rounds also said Yazzie and Martinez vs. New Mexico is a “landmark case” and state’s education is at “pivot point in policies” because the Constitution guarantees sufficiency, which the judgment of the case is showing this is not the case. Guillen explained that Judge Sarah Singleton determined that state has violated the Constitution by failing to provide funding for a uniform, sufficient education and an adequate system of education for at-risk, Native American and English Language Learner students.

Guillen said the decision, which is not final until either party files an appeal, also speaks that the current accountability system with the state is not working and he warned “we need to be careful with this lawsuit.” As of last week, Guillen said to his understanding the PED has not filed a formal appeal but indicated an intent to appeal.

Ron Singleton, Carlsbad Municipal school board member and NMSBA past president; David Chavez, former superintendent and director of Cooperative Educational Services (CES); Thad Phipps, assistant superintendent of transportation and operations at Artesia Public Schools; and Dusty Young, associated director of New Mexico Activities Association, shared various updates on their organizations.

Many of the speakers encouraged school board leaders and superintendents to prepare for the election of the governor and thereby the future course once the new governor and secretary of education take up their new positions in Santa Fe.

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