Home News COVID-19 Situation Lieutenant governor hears from community leaders

Lieutenant governor hears from community leaders

Lt. Gov. Howie Morales, left, listens as Sunset Elementary School Principal Dana Russ talks about the difficulties of remote learning Thursday morning at the Roswell Convention & Civic Center. (Juno Ogle Photo)

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Leaders from Roswell’s business, government and education sectors met with New Mexico Lt. Gov. Howie Morales on Thursday, sharing with him the hardships families are facing in businesses and education but also proposing solutions.

“For me, this is the first community meeting we’re doing. This helps us to really identify some solution-based strategies in learning to live with COVID,” Morales said in between one of the half-hour small group sessions at the Roswell Convention & Civic Center Thursday morning.

In the afternoon, Lt. Gov. Morales met with Mayor Dennis Kintigh and other city officials to tour the Roswell Air Center, in particular the maintenance, repair and overhaul companies and airship developer Sceye Inc.

Hope Morales, Roswell Independent School District board president, said she had been in contact with the lieutenant governor about visiting southeast New Mexico to learn about the community’s needs and experiences.

“I got to work with Howie (Morales) in my professional role related to education for the past several years,” she said. Hope Morales is New Mexico executive director of Teach Plus, a nonprofit organization that trains teachers for leadership roles.

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“It was just about getting the right time and place and him allowing me to help set him up with different groups to talk with,” she said.

In each session, the lieutenant governor and four representatives from various areas of the community met while socially distanced and wearing masks in one of the Convention Center’s meeting rooms. Between each group, the five tables were disinfected by center staff.

Among those in the first group meeting with the lieutenant governor was Tammy Lueras, District 3 representative of the Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell Community College board.

She and others in her session spoke of the struggles of businesses, schools and families under the public health order.

“Not everyone is comfortable utilizing technology. When you’re trying to work from home and trying to manage children’s online school and if you’re not sure if you’re going to be able to pay your bills, that’s extremely stressful,” Lueras said.

She and others in her group advocated for bringing more small business owners into discussions to learn what would actually help them and so they won’t feel as if they are just being told what to do.

“Having open lines of communication is going to be key. I don’t want it to be a one-time meeting and that’s it. I want it to be a collaboration,” Lt. Gov. Morales told the first group.

RISD Superintendent Mike Gottlieb brought principals of several schools to meet with Lt. Gov. Morales in two groups.

The first group of elementary school principals in turn spoke of the struggles of teachers, students and families in remote learning. They stressed the need to have children back in classrooms even just part time. Doing so would ensure students are getting instruction; teachers would be able to tell which students are in need of academic, social or mental help; and parents can get some relief from monitoring their children’s instruction.

RISD has applied for a waiver from the Public Education Department that would allow a 9-to-1 student-teacher ratio in the elementary schools. Gottlieb told Lt. Gov. Morales that would allow students to be in the classrooms two days a week.

Barbara Ryan, Pecos Elementary School principal, said students are often at home alone and told by parents to lock the doors and not let anyone in. That is removing their sense of fun and has them living in fear, she said.

“They’re not exercising, they’re not playing. We have lost the fun to this whole generation, and I would like to get it back,” she said.

Roswell High and Goddard High school principals Pilar Carrasco and Brian Luck told Lt. Gov. Morales that students in career and technical education programs are in danger of losing dual college credit because they cannot get the hands-on classroom experience required.

Carrasco said if the school could be allowed a 5-to-1 ratio, those students and others such as those in gifted programs could get the classroom time they need for those credits, and struggling students could get the academic help they need.

Luck said at Goddard, about 15 students have dropped out. He spoke of a senior on track to graduate who decided to get a GED instead and start college in January. Other students have gone to work to help earn money for their families, he said.

Carrasco said knowing the cleaning protocols of the district, he would feel more comfortable sending his son to Sierra Middle School than he would shopping or dining out.

“I know the safest, cleanest places right now are our schools,” he said.

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

To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.