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Group ‘thanks’ Sen. John Arthur Smith for N.M.’s child welfare rank

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A group of about 20 protesters crashed a Legislative Finance Committee meeting Thursday morning, carrying balloons and a giant “thank you” card for Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, which they said was from the people of Mississippi.

The protesters – who didn’t identify themselves with a particular group but who almost certainly weren’t actually from Mississippi – walked in while the LFC was hearing testimony from Stanford University education researcher Eric Hanushek. Holding a “Mississippi” sign meant to make the group look like a political delegation, the group “thanked” Smith for New Mexico’s fall to a last-place ranking in child welfare. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s “Kids Count” report, released last month, ranked New Mexico in last place, replacing perennial cellar-dweller Mississippi.

The protesters blasted Smith for blocking a proposal to tap New Mexico’s permanent fund to pay for increased early childhood education and began chanting “let her speak” when the woman leading the charge was told she was out of order. After the group left, Smith apologized to Hanushek and said, “Part of education is common courtesy, and obviously we’re missing some of that in the state of New Mexico.”

Thousands saved

The Albuquerque Public Schools board recognized an employee Wednesday who is saving the district thousands of dollars in surveillance camera maintenance.

Melissa Cruz, an APS police dispatcher, was making a routine repair to a surveillance camera when she realized the district was overpaying. Specifically, she learned that two belts, which allow the cameras to pan, tilt and zoom, cost $8 each. APS’ vendor was charging $365 to take one camera down and replace those belts and the vendor was taking up to six weeks per camera.

Cruz can replace belts on a camera in one hour, using the two $8 belts. APS has about 2,500 surveillance cameras.

“She has saved this district thousands and thousands of dollars,” said APS Chief Operations Officer Brad Winter.

Policy clarified

At the same meeting, the APS board also gave final approval to a decision it made in committee to revise the district policy on teaching controversial issues. The policy language is now more explicit about the inclusion of families. It says, in part:

“Albuquerque Public Schools employees shall strive to act as objective educators and moderators in the study of issues that may be sensitive in a classroom. APS shall strive to treat families as partners in the academic development of student ideas and opinions. Therefore, the superintendent, or his/her designee, shall provide a process by which students and/or parents/legal guardians’ objections to presentations, units of study and instructional materials and resources may be reviewed and alternative academic opportunities may be provided to the student.”