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Controversial RISD restructuring discussed

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Former Roswell High School Principal Ruben Bolaños, left, and Assistant Principal Pilar Carrasco are pictured at the 2019 RHS commencement ceremony on May 24. With Bolaños transferring to a new position, this graduation might have been his last as RHS principal. (Alison Penn Photo)

Board vice president: Personnel moves not ‘a battleground of brown versus white’

In the Roswell Independent School District, 25 principals, assistant principals and teachers have recently been reassigned to different positions with elementary, middle and high schools seeing changes.

All information on the reassignments has been confirmed through the district’s July personnel report and a public records request by the Daily Record.

The full ‘July Personnel Actions’ report for RISD can be seen at the end of this story. Many of the personnel moves are lateral, within the same school level, while others show district personnel moving from the elementary level to the secondary level, or middle to high school.

Most of the four middle schools are seeing changes, with the exception of Berrendo Middle School, RISD Superintendent Dr. Ann Lynn McIlroy explained.

Egregious allegations

While there has been support for the personnel moves from some, the district has been under scrutiny at the last two school board meetings from RISD teachers, administrators and other community members alleging racism toward high-ranking Hispanic employees.

McIlroy said though “egregious allegations” have been “made against me personally and against the district,” she is open to having the district investigated through an equity audit, as suggested at the July 9 board meeting.

At the school board meeting, Ruben Sanchez, school board vice president, said the district hired on McIlroy because the district “needed change” to address graduation rates and other issues.

To prove the recent restructuring was not “a battleground of brown versus white,” Sanchez read off some personnel changes at the July 9 meeting. He said these changes were not racially based since a “bunch of Caucasians” were also moved around.

Bolaños

Former Roswell High School Principal Ruben Bolaños has been at the forefront of the conversation, since he is being moved to a full-time equivalent position as the “work-based learning liaison” at the district’s central office, according to the personnel report.

Some of the public has called this move a demotion and have insinuated that Bolaños will receive a significant pay cut. McIlroy said Bolaños’ pay is “being held harmless,” funded partially by a work-based learning initiative, and the district is in communication with Bolaños to ensure his success in the new position and is committed to keeping the position — with or without grant funding.

McIlroy said Bolaños’ position is the “critical link” between the business community and the schools. She said she wants him to be “wildly, madly, crazy successful.”

When asked if she expected such a reaction to the personnel moves, McIlroy said she expected facing difficulty with Bolaños’ move “because he is dearly beloved,” which she didn’t take lightly. However, she said having Bolaños in his new position is the “right thing to do for lots of different reasons, some that are public and some that are not and can never be.”

After talking with the teachers at RHS, McIlroy said the decision was made to open up the RHS principal position. She said the hiring committee has done one round of interviews and were unsatisfied. The committee has also voiced they do not want an interim principal and no one had been hired as of Friday.

Making changes

McIlroy said restructuring could have been messaged better to the community, but before making it public she first wanted to address the people affected “professionally and personally.” She said she didn’t want to cause panic among employees over potential changes.

Addressing graduation rates was one of the reasons for restructuring the district to provide “immediate, dramatic impact,” McIlroy said. She added there are “amazing people in our district” and playing what some might call personnel Tetris was to “utilize those people in the best way to serve kids the best.”

Another reason was McIlroy said principals at the high school level expressed needing additional help and were understaffed. In response, the district added an assistant principal and a counselor for each of the four grade levels at the high schools.

McIlroy said some of the leadership changes are based on creating “power teams” to “radically change the dynamic for kids” at RISD schools. She said these strategic choices were made and McIlroy said the moves were based on needs at each building, input from district leadership, comments from the community, parent calls and more.

Positions

For Bolaños’ position at RHS, LaShawn Byrd, principal of University High School, was listed as the new RHS principal with Art Sandoval, assistant principal at UHS, set to take over as principal of UHS in an email from McIlroy to principals, directors and assistant superintendents on May 17.

On Friday McIlroy confirmed, however, that Byrd and Sandoval will remain in their current positions at UHS.

At Roswell High, Travis Ackerman, an assistant principal from Mesa Middle; Andrea Batista, a science teacher from University High School; and Breezy Gutierrez, a new hire from Santa Rosa, will be assistant principals, along with remaining Assistant Principal Pilar Carrasco.

Also at RHS, the report listed that assistant principal Susan Sanchez, who served as interim superintendent from over a year, resigned and another assistant principal, Laura Gonzales, will be transferred to a student services position at the central office.

Goddard High School shows some changes as Assistant Principal Dennis Montanez will now be the assistant athletic director and Dusty Lewis, a career advisor at UHS, will move to Montanez’s current position.

Brian Luck remains as GHS principal with Ramon Miramontes an assistant principal. Leslea Tivis, an assistant principal at Mountain View Middle School, will be an assistant principal at GHS and so will Debbie Norris, who is currently at Sierra Middle School.

In another change, McIlroy explained a counselor will be added at all four middle schools.

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