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Attorney says wording of RISD policy could cause problems

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Changing a single word in a policy it approved in August could have an adverse effect on the Roswell Independent School Board according to an attorney for the state school board association, board members were told at their meeting Tuesday.

In August, the board approved a policy regarding compensation for board members. A section of the policy stated that board members who attend a board or committee meeting for less than four hours in one day “shall receive a per diem” of $45.

Board member Mona Kirk suggested changing the word “shall” to “may” because it contradicted the opening statement of the policy that “Board members shall serve without compensation.” The use of the word “shall” regarding the per diem made it sound as if board members would be required to accept the payment, she said.

In the August meeting, she said the board’s legal counsel said the language change would be acceptable and RISD administrators agreed.

However, at Tuesday’s meeting, Mireya Trujillo, assistant superintendent of human resources, said John Kennedy, attorney for the New Mexico School Boards Association, had a different opinion.

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“Changing the language to ‘may’ implies that the local school board will have the power of authority to approve compensation for the board member, which in addition to being illegal, would lead to claims of improper influence on the board and adversely impact the board’s public relations and the community,” Trujillo read from Kennedy’s correspondence.

The original language of the policy was taken from state statute, Kennedy said.

Kennedy also recommended that another policy the board passed in August regarding staff conduct with students should be a regulation attached to an existing policy rather than a policy by itself.

Trujillo said it would be up to the board whether or not to reconsider the policies at its next board meeting. There were no discussion or questions from the board on either policy.

In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, RISD took another step in continuing construction projects when the board gave its approval for an architect.

Staff and board members applauded after the 4-0 vote selecting PA Architects of Albuquerque to design the work for Nancy Lopez Elementary School. Board member James Edwards was absent.

“Congratulations, Nancy Lopez,” board member Mona Kirk said after the vote. “It’s desperately needed.”

The elementary school is slated for construction or renovation after the completion of nearby Mesa Middle School. RISD just broke ground on that project, and it is expected to be completed in about 16 months.

Chad Cole, assistant superintendent for finance and operations, said the district received proposals from nine architects.

“We love it when the marketplace competes. It drives down costs, it drives up quality,” he said.

PA Architects has designed several RISD schools, Cole said.

In other business Tuesday night, the board also approved a request from Roswell High School’s Charlie’s Angels Dance Team to travel to the National Dance Alliance High School Nationals Dance Competition, which will be March 2 to 7 in Orlando, Florida.

The team won their third national title in 2020, Head Coach Kim Castro said.

“We came home on a Monday and I think we were shut down by Thursday of that same week,” she said of the governor’s order closing schools to in-person instruction and activities in March 2020.

“That was kind of a sad finish to that year, but we did win nationals. We were hoping to go for state that year. Obviously last year we didn’t get to go at all,” she said.

“We’re feeling excited about this year. We’ve been practicing really hard and we just feel like things are kind of getting back to normal,” she said.

Approval of the travel request means the team can make hotel reservations and begin fundraising for the trip, Superintendent Brian Luck said. Accommodations and travel plans could change depending on what state guidelines are in place at the time, he said.

The board also approved Dr. Rodriguez Audiology and Hearing Center for audiology services for students in the district and accepted a donation of more than $1,000 in orchestra instruments. Valley View fifth-grade teacher Julie Dominguez raised the funds through the website Donors Choice, which allows individuals to financially support classroom projects in American public schools.

The board also approved an extra duty pay increment of $2,700 per semester for teachers who take on supervision of virtual students in the district.

The board also recognized the food service department for being honored by the New Mexico Grown Farm to School Program for its use of locally grown produce.

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

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