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RRPS to offer Chromebooks in each classroom, sign language


Keeping with the tradition of regularly hearing departmental reports, the Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education listened to an update on its Curriculum and Instruction Department for 2½ hours Friday morning.

New District 3 board member Katherine Covey took her seat for the first time, as the board heard from C&I Executive Director Carl Leppelman and a handful of his departmental administrators.

“Igniting Student Potential” remains the goal, Leppelman said, as he began the update from what he termed “the 20,000-foot level.”

“The time and quality of instruction are important,” Leppelman said, although RRPS — and most school districts throughout the state — are not only in need of hiring highly qualified and passionate teachers, but also of retaining them.

The strategic plan and budgets were reviewed, along with a quick look at the “Future-Ready Initiative,” which includes Chromebook computer tablets for every classroom — a goal which should be realized by the time the 2019-20 school year arrives, said LaJuana Coleman, executive director for secondary curriculum and instruction.

The district, Coleman said, has transformed from textbook- and paper-based classrooms to students having “the world at (their) fingertips.”

But it’s not as easy as it sounds, because of the need for professional development for educators. Leppelman stressed the need for students to have 182 days of classroom instruction, and the need for teachers to have 10 days for “professional growth,” which isn’t possible now.

Superintendent Sue Cleveland said, “When you do a day of professional development, you take away a day of classroom education,” and some teachers are hesitant, even refusing to miss a day in their classroom, knowing they’re responsible for the learning of their students.

And, Cleveland said she’d noticed, teachers who need professional development the most take it the least when it’s not mandatory, as it once was.

Elizabeth Jacome, executive director of elementary curriculum and instruction, said schools have meetings on early-release days (Wednesdays), when “professional learning communities” discuss the latest happenings in their classrooms and building, as well as what they’re observing in their students.

New teacher support is also available, and new video coaching techniques are also helpful, Coleman said.

Leppelman said progress is being made on the new career-tech component of the district’s curriculum, and it will be discussed at a later meeting.

Suzanne Nguyen, executive director of the district’s Federal, Bilingual & Native American Programs, spoke about the growing diversity in the district and about talking with the parents and meeting the needs of the 2,000 or so Native American students. She added that sign language may soon become part of the curriculum as another “foreign” language available to students, who already have the opportunity to learn Spanish, French and Mandarin.

“Caring, competent and, most-important, having character,” is how Leppelman touted his staff.

The board was also expected to hear on Friday from the new Fine Arts executive director, Kurt Schmidt, for his report after 30 minutes for lunch.

The Observer’s deadline prevented a story on that report.

The school board’s next meeting, along with a workshop, begins April 22, at 5:30 p.m.