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RISD board OKs resolutions for legislative platform

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The Roswell Independent School District school board approved two resolutions at its meeting Tuesday night that will be forwarded to the state school board association to consider for its legislative platform next year.

While both passed, the votes were not unanimous and one asking for local autonomy passed due to an abstention vote from one member.

The resolutions will not affect RISD policies. Rather, they will be forwarded to the New Mexico School Boards Association. RISD board member Mona Kirk is president of NMSBA Region 6 and said the organization will meet Sept. 29 to put together its platform for the 2022 Legislature.

The local autonomy resolution requests the Public Education Department recognize that a “one-size-fits-all” approach does not serve the state’s 89 school districts, and that the PED meet with representatives of all local school boards for input and permit districts to adopt rules allowing them to administer the duties of local boards granted under state law.

It passed 3-2 with Hope Morales and Mona Kirk voting yes and Hilda Sanchez and Milburn Dolen voting no.

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James Edwards said he would abstain from the vote. Board President Morales asked Edwards if he understood an abstention would count as a yes vote, to which he said he did.

At the August meeting, Edwards also abstained from voting on a resolution asking the PED to reconsider its mask mandate and give local boards autonomy on mask requirements. At that time, Morales said an abstention would count as a no vote, but Dolen disagreed. The August resolution received three yes votes without Edwards’ vote to gain approval.

Morales said after Tuesday’s meeting that she checked with the board’s attorney after the August vote and was told that local board policy does state an abstention counts as a yes vote.

Sanchez and Dolen said they voted against the resolution because it will have little effect.

“It’s meaningless because there’s a law that eliminated this authority to all school boards and raised the PED under the leadership of the serving governor,” Sanchez said.

Dolen agreed, but said it was not law but a change to the state constitution.

In 2003, 55% of New Mexico voters approved a constitutional amendment that elevated the PED to a cabinet position overseen by a secretary appointed by the governor. Previously, the PED was directed by a superintendent accountable to the State Board of Education. The state BOE became the Public Education Commission, which acts in an advisory capacity to the PED and oversees charter schools.

“The Legislature can’t even change it without taking it back to a full vote of the state,” Dolen said. “I think we choose our battles. I think that a constitutional change is something that needs to happen elsewhere than trying to get the New Mexico School Board Association to approve of, especially in a 30-day session.”

Morales said the resolution was an opportunity to show what the board’s priorities are and start conversations on them. Kirk said local autonomy is a topic that has become important to districts all across the state.

“We all feel that local control, local decision making is better for each district,” Kirk said.

Sanchez said there were more important priorities to consider for the legislative platform, such as school funding, teacher recruitment and retention, school safety, access to mental health resources or increasing educational equity.

The other resolution requests the PED consider allowing districts to hire relatives of school board members as substitute teachers and support staff in times of emergencies to help relieve shortages. That resolution passed 4-1, with Sanchez voting against it.

During discussion, Sanchez asked if it would create a conflict of interest for board members.

“My thought is we don’t deal with their hiring or firing. That’s done by the superintendent, and it’s only in an emergency situation. We’re not going to make long-term employment at this time,” Dolen said.

“I do appreciate this is limiting it to certain positions and not opening doors to all positions,” Morales said.

Sanchez also asked who would define what an emergency situation is.

“If this is approved and sent forward, that may be discussed there also, the process and procedure on how that’s managed,” Kirk said.

Kirk said the resolution, if it were to become policy, would likely be more helpful to school districts in smaller communities where the pool of possible substitutes is smaller.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the board voted unanimously to approve the following:

• For Board President Morales to write a letter of support for Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell’s TRIO Upward Bound program.

• Out-of-state travel for the Roswell High School Band to Denver City, Texas, in October and New Orleans in April.

* Accepting an anonymous donation of $1,000 to RHS to help pay for its recent Friday Night Lights vaccine clinic.

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

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