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RISD board keeps policies unchanged


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The Board of Education of the Roswell Independent School District decided at its regular meeting Tuesday to leave two previously adopted policies as-is despite the advice of an association attorney.

Over the summer, the board approved a series of policies that originated with the New Mexico School Boards Association policy services, including one regarding compensation for board members and another regarding staff conduct with students.

When the board compensation policy was first introduced to the board in August, board member Mona Kirk suggested changing one word in the policy.

The policy, based on a bill from the New Mexico Senate making changes to the state’s per diem and mileage act, read that board members who attend a board or committee meeting for less than four hours in a day “shall receive a per diem” of $45.

Senate Bill 345 in the 2021 legislative session mainly changed the definition of attending an event to mean either physically or through a virtual platform and also changed compensation amounts. It passed the Senate 35-0 and the House of Representatives 60-1 and was signed by the governor on April 6.

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Kirk said the wording made it sound like board members would be required to accept the compensation even though state law says school board members shall serve without compensation and cannot be employed by the district during their term. She suggested changing the word “shall” to “may.”

When the policy was presented to the board for a vote in September, the word change had been reviewed by the board’s legal council, Tony Ortiz of Ortiz-Zamora Attorneys at Law in Santa Fe. He had told the board the word change would be OK to make and the board approved the policy.

However, the board later was told by NMSBA Attorney John Kennedy the word change could have an adverse affect on the board.

“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,” Kennedy’s correspondence to the board said.

The board voted to reconsider the policy, but the discussion that followed leaned against restoring the word “shall.”

Kirk noted that Kennedy is new to the NMSBA position and is likely scrutinizing actions closely. Kirk is president of NMSBA’s region 6 and sits on the association’s board of directors.

“I don’t see that there is a reason to go against our school board lawyer,” she said.

Board President Hope Morales said she was concerned if there might be consequences for going against the legislative intent of the policy.

“Really, it’s just wording,” Kirk said. “You ask five different lawyers, they’re going to give you five different opinions.”

Board member Milburn Dolen said his main concern was whether or not the word change would become a finding on the district’s annual audit.

Chad Cole, assistant superintendent for finance and operations, said it’s not likely.

“I have seen audit findings come back from some of the craziest things you can imagine, both big and small. My opinion, for what it’s worth, is this would not generate an audit finding. I disagree with Mr. Kennedy’s opinion quite frankly,” he said.

“We use them as a policy unit,” Dolen said, referring to the NMSBA, “but ultimately it’s RISD’s board policy. I think that if it’s a board policy, we’ve probably spent enough time on it, say we’re going to run with what we said and be done with it.”

Kirk made a motion to table the reconsideration of the policy and the board unanimously approved.

A similar vote was taken on the second policy regarding staff conduct with students, which Kennedy had recommended be a regulation attached to another policy.

Tabling the reconsiderations of the policies leaves them as the board originally passed them, Morales said.

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

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