LAS CRUCES – The Las Cruces Public Schools Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a significant change to the district’s policy for parents who would like to opt their students out of standardized testing.
During a lengthy discussion, the board weighed the rights of parents to opt students out against federal requirements which require the district to maintain a minimum 95 percent participation rate for testing. At risk is $1.5 million in federal funding, administrators said. During the 2014-15 school year, the district met the requirement for math assessments, but only achieved a 92.5 percent participation rate for English Language Arts.
“We’re walking a tightrope,” said Superintendent Stan Rounds. “On one hand, our desire is to recognize the parents’ ability to exercise their parental options for opting their students out of testing. While, on the other side, we’re dealing with a law that requires us to meet 95 percent.”
The new language in the policy adopted Tuesday allows parents to opt students out of “various assessments for medical and other extenuating personal reasons.” Students may opt out with a doctor’s note — which does not count against the district’s participation rate, according to Chief Academic Officer Andrea Fletcher. Other extenuating reasons will be determined on a case-by-case basis by administrators at each school site.
Additionally, the policy directs the administration to lay forth a unified and cohesive message for parents seeking to opt their children out of the test.
At Tuesday’s meeting, board members also:
Voted 4-1 to re-elect the current slate of officers. Maria Flores will continue to serve as president, Chuck Davis as vice-president and Barbara Hall as Secretary. Hall cast the only dissenting vote.
Heard an update from Rounds on the budget woes that lie ahead for the coming fiscal year. Rounds again told the board that a decision will have to be made between maintaining staffing positions and increasing staff compensation. Rounds also informed the board of a recent audit of the transportation system, which reduced state funding for the current school year by $462,000 because ridership is down. The district typically loses about $300,000 each year in transportation, bringing the total year’s loss to nearly $750,000.
Heard more than 30 minutes of public input from a dozen community members and LCPS staff in support of Rounds’ leadership. That included three high school principals — Kathie Davis of Rio Grande Preparatory Institute, Jennifer Amis of Arrowhead Park and Michael Montoya of Centennial High School. State Sen. Mary Kay Papen, Troy Tudor, interim president and CEO of the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, Ben Woods of the Las Cruces Public Schools Foundation, Denni Cheney of the Bridge of Southern New Mexico and others addressed the board, urging them to extend Rounds’ contract.
Received an update on the new Staff Wellness Program at LCPS, funded through a grant from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation.
The board also received a donation of $14,436 on behalf of the district from Citizen’s Bank of Las Cruces, generated through transactions on the bank’s school debit card program. In the past two years, the program has raised more than $24,000 for the schools.
Damien Willis may be reached at 575-541-5468, firstname.lastname@example.org or @damienwillis on Twitter.
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