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AIMS supporters compare RRPS to a bully

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Although the Albuquerque Institute for Math and Science likely has relented in its pursuit of a campus in Rio Rancho this fall, its supporters still want AIMS in the City of Vision.

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, Rio Rancho 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 that 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.

The board’s next meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 11 in the district offices at 500 Laser Road.