Public speaks on matter of House superintendent

 

April 24, 2019



HOUSE — The fate of House Schools Superintendent Bonnie Lightfoot’s contract was not on the House school board agenda April 15, but it was on the minds of teachers, parents and students who spoke at the meeting.

Two teachers, a parent and a student spoke in Lightfoot’s favor, and parents of a special education student spoke against renewing her contract after the current school year.

Speakers indicated that parents had said during March’s House school board meeting that some teachers had received low ratings, which they apparently blamed on favoritism.

Lightfoot’s contract was listed as an executive-session item on the board’s March meeting but was not mentioned in Monday’s agenda..

At Monday’s meeting House High School teachers Emily Priddy and Clyde Davis defended the New Mexico Public Education Department’s teacher rating system. Both said the system is based on objective standards and leaves little room for subjective opinions from supervisors.


In comments to the board, Priddy said, “It sounds to me like someone unhappy with an evaluation enlisted unsuspecting parents to air their grievances en masse in a transparent effort to influence the board on a night when the superintendent’s contract was under consideration.”

Evaluations, she said, “are based on a detailed, state-mandated rubric.”

“Scores tend to drop,” she added, “as evaluators are held to stricter standards.”

In his remarks, Davis said, “Whether we like it or not, Santa Fe holds the reins” on teacher evaluations.

At a small district like House, with only 63 students, he said, “One or two students can have a reverberating effect on data,” meaning outsize impact on performance evaluations.

Nonetheless, he said, the objective evaluations are necessary,.

“Our kids have to perform to standards to do well on (standardized) tests,” he said.

Both said evaluations should be considered constructive criticism.

Davis said he asked to be evaluated in an area where he felt he was not performing as well as he would have liked, “because I want to grow as a teacher.”

Priddy said, “Constructive criticism is hard to accept. It hurts to be told you’re not God’s gift to education. I’ve been there.”

When she taught in Tulsa, Oklahoma, she said, “the district adopted a new rubric, and scores sank, along with morale. Someone unfamiliar with the process easily could have been duped into mistaking those lower scores for favoritism.”

Amanda Kenyon, whose daughter Katelynn Kenyon is a House High School student, praised the “support system” at House Schools.

Her daughter, she said, received asssitance from seven staff members on a big project.

“That’s something we never saw before until we got here,” she said.

That kind of involvement, she said, “shows true leadership. “It’s a reward system whose awards are not just in school.”

Katelynn Kenyon added her voice to support Lightfoot.

“I’ve never been in a place where I could come up to a teacher or anyone and say, ‘Hey, could I talk to you a minute?’ she said. “Here you’re welcomed and loved.”

After she had to miss an appointment for a proctored test, she said, a staff member proctored the test for her at another time.

Kelley Fontanilla, who works weekly with House schools, also advocated for Lightfoot, saying Lightfoot is “data driven. Data drives her decisions, and they’re geared to the kiddos.”

Wendy and Roger Grigsby, parents of a special-education student at House, said Lightfoot’s contract should not be renewed.

They said the departure this school year of their son’s teacher, who had made more progress with their son than any other teacher who had worked with him, should be investigated.

In the meantime, Wendy Grigsby said, “Please reconsider renewing (Lightfoot’s) contract. We’re losing students head over heels.”

Roger Grigsby added, “I don’t think she (Lightfoot) has the best interests of the students in mind.”

In other action, the board

• Approved a House school board scholarship of $1,000 to senior Ellie Aikman. Aikman’s name was also forwarded to the New Mexico School Boards Association for consideration for financial aid from the association.

• Heard presentations from FFA students who participated in the New Mexico FFA’s Career Develop Events competition April 3-5 in Las Cruces. House’s floriculture team won fifth place in the state competition.

• Discussed the school system’s 2019-2020 budget, which will reflect funding increases for salary raises, as approved in this year’s New Mexico Legislature session. Business Manager Derrick Terrell said salaries make up 90 percent of the school system’s budget.


• In her report to the board Lightfoot noted that students “from preschool to 12th grade” had helped Tucumcari artist Doug Quarles paint a mural on the wall of the school library. She also noted that Plateau is close to installing fiber-optic internet cable to House schools and that security improvements are advancing. She also noted House High School’s graduation rate had climbed to 82.9 percent from 50.8 percent last year.


 
 

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