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RRPS board hears of added funds; student fees unresolved

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — With the 2018-19 school year winding down, the Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education — with only one more scheduled meeting before the end of the school year — listened last Monday evening as the RRPS lobbyist, Cris Balzano, gave his legislative update.

Balzano said his firm, Balzano Government Relations, tracked 154 pieces of legislation, and reported RRPS received $2.4 million in additional funding, plus money for the Navigator program for counseling services, although the money requested for gunshot detection in a few schools was not granted because of, he said, “a lot of questions about the software in Santa Fe.”

The board also gave its approval, each time in 5-0 votes, to:

• The annual summer food program, a partnership with the City of Rio Rancho Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department. Parks and Rec Director Connie Peterson told the board more than 45,000 free meals are expected to be served to 1- to 18-year-olds at seven sites throughout the city, with the meals following U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition guidelines.

• The “1 Million Project” through Sprint, which will provide tablets to 148 Rio Rancho High School students and 107 Independence High School students, along with internet connectivity. Sprint launched year one of the 1 Million Project Foundation in August 2017 with a mission to help 1 million high school students achieve their full potential by giving them tablets and free high-speed internet for their entire high school careers.

• A partnership with the Central New Mexico YMCA, which will help youngsters with math, English, arts and humanities, as well as providing breakfast and lunch for them, four days a week this summer. The program will be held at Colinas del Norte Elementary, which will attract students from Sandia Vista, Vista Grande and Cielo Azul elementary schools, all in proximity to CdN.

• New Mexico School Board Association scholarship nominees Zachary Storms of Cleveland High and Alea Jade Stevenson of RRHS.

• A facilities-use agreement for movies being filmed on RRPS campuses, including athletic fields, black-box theaters, etc.

• A funding application for bilingual-multicultural education programs for Colinas del Norte, Maggie Cordova and Puesta del Sol elementaries; Eagle Ridge Middle School; and Cleveland and Rio Rancho high schools.

• The science instructional materials adoption for the 2019-20 school year, aligned to state standards, for grades K-12. LaJuana Coleman, the executive director for secondary curriculum and instruction, said it was “a very well thought-out process” in next-generation science standards.

Following the 90-minute regular meeting, the board spent about an hour listening to two presentations in a workshop session:

• School Improvement Officers Janna Chenault (elementary) and Renee Saucedo (secondary) gave an update on what they’ve been doing in the first year of their appointment, covering their budget, regular meetings with every school’s principals, their challenges and goals.

“They have done a wonderful job this year,” Superintendent Sue Cleveland said.

• Executive Director of Athletics Larry Chavez proposed a $30 annual student pass that would allow them to attend an unlimited number of athletic events at their school. He again met reluctance from the board.

Chavez also went over his revenue projections and expenses, which, when compared, lead to a deficit for the 2018-19 school year. He would like to use gate receipts “as a contingency fund” for maintaining and repairing equipment and facilities.

He explained some of his “deferred needs,” including pricey windscreens.

“Cleveland High School needs a lot,” he told the board.

When board members said they believed attendance would decrease if students were charged to get in, Cleveland joined in and told them of instances when parents basically use the events as free babysitting, dropping their youngsters off and returning to pick them up after the game ends. But, Chavez said, unchaperoned middle-school students “became big problems at high-school events.”

No action was taken on either presentation, although Cleveland again reminded the board “Nothing is free” after Chavez noted “all but one public school (district) charges their students admission.”

The school board has scheduled a special meeting for 5:30 p.m. May 8. The next regular meeting is May 13, also at 5:30 p.m.