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RISD faces financial impact from shooting threat

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From left, Board President Alan Gedde, and Secretary Dr. Kathleen Pittman listen to Superintendent Dr. Ann Lynn McIlroy’s explanation of the potential financial impact of the school shooting threat on Dec. 3 to the Roswell Independent School District on Tuesday evening at the first school board meeting of the year. (Alison Penn Photo)

Superintendent Dr. Ann Lynn McIlroy reported during Tuesday’s school board meeting that the false school shooting threat at Roswell Independent School District (RISD) on Dec. 3 may have financial implications to the district’s transportation department.

School board members welcomed staff, administrators and students back to school from winter break at the first school board meeting of the new year.

Impact of threat

On Dec. 3, police and school officials investigated the threat against the RISD schools during a two-hour delay and the threat was determined to be invalid. A Roswell Police Department press release stated the threat originated from an email sent by a 53-year-old woman — a former Roswell resident who may face federal and local charges for the threat — to a CIA office. The email was forwarded to local law enforcement and the school district. McIlroy said 46 percent of the 10,236 RISD students were absent after the threat was received.

The threat happened to fall on the 80th day of school. The state determines the district’s transportation allocation by measuring the average number of students riding the bus on the 80th and 120th days of school, which Dr. McIlroy explained would have a financial impact. McIlroy said the final amount of the impact will be known after the 120th day of school and after the legislative session. From last school year to the present one, Christ Thweatt, RISD’s support services coordinator, said the number of students who ride the bus has dropped by 171 students.

“It is going to impact us financially next year because our transportation allocation will be reduced and should not be — for things completely beyond our control … “ McIlroy said.

Since the incident, Dr. McIlroy shared that she had been working to resolve the potential issue with the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED).

“When I inquired and requested a variance to the 80-day count being used for extenuating circumstances — as directed by the then-secretary of education — it was denied,” McIlroy said. “I was told that it did make a significant impact and that we should have just canceled school. And I said, ‘Well, in the five seconds I had to make that decision — that was not the first thing on my mind. Safety of our kids was the most important thing.”

McIlroy said she provided the attendance information for Dec. 3 to an FBI special agent, which could be used if the responsible individual is prosecuted. At this time, McIlroy said the woman is being held for 90 days for psychiatric evaluation and prosecution pending until it is determined if she can stand for trial. McIlroy said the FBI has also been informed of the financial impact.

Board member Mona Kirk asked if this would affect the district’s state equalization guarantee (SEG), funds allocated to the school based on the number of students. McIlroy said attendance doesn’t affect the SEG, since the enrollment was constant. McIlroy clarified that the SEG is based on average enrollment on days 40, 80 and 120 of the school year.

McIlroy said she will contact Lt. Gov. Howie Morales, the interim secretary of education, and the new administration to reconsider that decision to instead use numbers from the 82nd or 83rd day of school for a more accurate count and estimation for the transportation allocation, since the school had an “extreme situation.” McIlroy said she spoke with legislators Greg Nibert and Phelps Anderson about the matter and they shared support for the district. McIlroy said other districts may experience exceptional circumstances and will need to be addressed by the NMPED. Board President Alan Gedde and Dr. Kathleen Pittman thanked McIlroy for looking into it and hoped for resolution on the matter.

For other announcements, McIlroy said there are openings for the pre-k program, for children who turned 4 by Sept. 1, at the Parkview Early Literacy Center. She said parents can contact the administrators at Parkview at 575-637-3525 if they are interested in enrolling their children.

Special election

In other news, Chad Cole, assistant superintendent of finance and operations, said the mail-in-only ballots for the Feb. 5 special election for the general obligation (GO) bond and the Senate Bill 9 mill levy for potential capital improvements have been sent out by the Chaves County clerk as of Tuesday.

Cole also shared that the campaign team for the bond election has launched the “Friends of Roswell Schools” Facebook page to support the election efforts. As of now, he said the page has 200 likes and is encouraging people to like and share the page. Dr. Pittman also encouraged people to watch the “Support Roswell’s Kids!” video on the Facebook page.

In other district social media news, there is an existing unsanctioned RISD Facebook page and McIlroy said the district does not have administrative access. She said the district is working to discover who created it and is managing the existing Facebook page. She said this could be worked on with “full force” if RISD is able to hire a public relations representative in the summer to oversee the school’s social media platforms.

Groundbreaking

The school board voted unanimously to approve a request for proposals (RFP) for a general contractor for Del Norte Elementary School. Cole said the RFP received two bids from “quality contractors” and the evaluation committee shared a recommendation for Waide Construction Company.

Dr. McIlroy made a recommendation of approval for the RFP. Board member Kirk made the motion and board member James Edwards seconded her motion.

Cole said Waide Construction has already built some RISD schools and the company is “from this community, so their families work for us and our families work for them, and that makes all the difference in the world when you’re doing phase construction.”

A groundbreaking could happen as soon as Jan. 28, Cole said.

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