Several supporters criticized Rio Rancho Public Schools at the 100-minute board of education meeting Monday evening, some comparing the district to a bully.
The University of New Mexico announced last month that AIMS and its sixth-grade start-up class could use classrooms in Albuquerque, and the charter school, with a waiver facing judicial review, informed new Rio Rancho students they could attend classes there.
“UNM scrambled to identify additional classroom space near the main AIMS campus that will allow us to serve our Rio Rancho parents and children for the time being as we continue to charter our course to the UNM West campus,” AIMS Director Kathy Sandoval-Snider said at the time. UNM is making five classrooms, containing almost 4,000 square feet, available in the Manufacturing Technology and Training Center on its South Campus.
Rio Rancho TEA Party president Renee Wilkins, one of five speakers in the public comment session, said RRPS was in fear of losing funding and status and “change always happens.” She said she’d like RRPS to allow AIMS “to come to Rio Rancho,” and students will be lost to RRPS anyway, with parents driving their kids to the AIMS facilities on the South Campus.
Rio Rancho City Councilor Cheryl Everett said she wanted to “pick a bone” with RRPS’ chief operations officer, Richard Bruce, who claimed AIMS was trying to “elbow” its way into the city in his guest column in the Sunday, July 13, Observer.
Everett didn’t like his use of the verb elbow, saying she was a longtime hockey fan and its connotation was that of a bully. She also took offense to the way she felt Stephen vanHorn’s letter to the Observer, which Bruce was responding to in his column, was attacked.
“At best, Mr. vanHorn is woefully misinformed about the facts and figures. At worst — and this would be truly unfortunate — he and others are deliberately trying to mislead the citizens of Rio Rancho,” Bruce had written.
After Everett’s three minutes were up, vanHorn took a turn at the podium.
He was miffed that RRPS Superintendent Sue Cleveland apparently approved Bruce’s column and what he said was “an attempt to assassinate my character as a citizen” and “an attempt to intimidate me and perhaps silence me.”
Later, Cleveland said a legal action filed by RRPS sought only to clarify state law; “They need to follow state law and we are not suing them,” she said, adding that AIMS wasn’t mentioned in the filing.
“We can’t pick and choose the laws we want to obey,” she added.
In an unrelated public comment, three women told of their disappointment in seeing an elementary principal’s blog, which they found “inappropriate,” about an incident involving an unruly student on her campus.
In other matters, the school board:
• Congratulated the 19 Rio Rancho High School students on the Van’s Custom Culture team, which won a trophy and $50,000 for submitting the winning design in a national shoe design competition, and Cleveland said the shoes had been prominent on the set of a recent Today Show on NBC-TV;
• Heard a report from Bruce on the requests for public information by the public, businesses and media, and what goes into procuring such documents and printing them;
• Approved three policies (276, 300 and 470) after second readings of each;
• OK’d Finance Director Randy Evans’ plan to issue a request for proposals (RFP) for another attorney’s services, one specifically with expertise in labor relations; and
• Gave approval for Facilities Director Al Sena’s maintenance plan for the coming school year and a memorandum of understanding with the New Mexico Environment Department for a comprehensive energy plan of sorts, which, Cleveland said, will help RRPS in “being good stewards of the resources we have.”
The board’s next meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 11, in the district offices, 500 Laser Road.