Serving the High Plains

Unit office wing may house Early Head Start

Classrooms at Tucumcari Elementary School might not be suitable as a temporary home for the Early Head Start program. However, a wing at the school district’s unit office might be considered.

Interim superintendent Dave Johnson said during the school board’s Jan. 15 meeting the state may deem empty classrooms at TES as unsuitable for Early Head Start because they lack bathrooms and have window issues.

Instead, Early Head Start might consider a wing of the district’s unit office at West Amarosa Avenue. That space is being rented by the New Mexico State Library for its bookmobile program for $800 a month.

Johnson said the state library still has a year left on a three-year rental agreement on that space. He said perhaps the department could end the contract using a 30- or 60-day early departure clause.

The district’s insurer several months ago condemned Mountain View School, which Early Head Start rents for a $1 a year.

Eastern Plains Community Action Agency, which runs the program, has been looking for a temporary new location. Tucumcari’s Early Head Start serves about 30 students.

Johnson said Eastern Plains would cover the cost of renovations if it uses the unit office wing.

High school principal Nicole Bright-Lesly also suggested the high school’s unused choir room for Early Head Start.

Noting Early Head Start is supposed to vacate Mountain View School by March, board member Jerry Lopez asked whether an 90-day extension could be granted. Lopez was told that could jeopardize funding from the New Mexico Public School Facilities Authority to cover the cost of the school’s demolition.

In other business:

— The board went into a closed executive session with Johnson and administrative assistant Veronica Hernandez for about 50 minutes to discuss procedures and a timeline for finding a new superintendent.

Johnson said after the meeting that those matters could have been discussed in open session, but he requested it be behind closed doors because some talk concerned possible candidates.

Johnson said an advertisement for the opening would be placed immediately, and applications would be accepted though late February.

He said interviews would begin in March, with the goal to announce a new superintendent by mid-April. Johnson and Hernandez were hired by the board via stipend to be the district’s search team.

The district is seeking a replacement for Aaron McKinney, who retired on Jan. 1 after 18 years as superintendent.

— The board elected officers and volunteered for committees as part of its reorganization.

Heather Gonzales was re-elected as board president. Matthew Pacheco was elected as Vice President, and Lopez was selected as secretary.

Members on these board committees were chosen: audit, Pacheco and Lopez; budget, Pacheco and Lopez; calendar, Gonzales and Robert Lucero; textbook, Gonzales; and finance, Pacheco and JD Knapp.

— The board approved budget adjustments totaling $1.5 million to finish construction on the baseball and softball fields. Much of that is unspent money from the previous fiscal year.

Johnson said construction should be essentially done by late January.

Lopez expressed concern about recent runoff on the baseball field. Johnson said the field originally was set to be built two feet higher, but that part of construction was nixed to save construction costs. Lopez wondered whether such a change order should have been reviewed by the board.

— During board member comments, Gonzales said the district should have done a better job informing parents after a shelter-in-place situation during a multi-agency police operation on Jan. 10-11 at the Quay Apartments.

She said text messages about the operation and shelter-in-place would not have been sent during the operations so suspects wouldn’t be tipped off.

Regardless, “I think we can do a better job of communicating, letting the parents know” after the operation, Gonzales said.

Johnson admitted fault for a failure in communication, adding: “We can do a better job.”

— Johnson and Hernandez said they recently held a meeting with roofing contractors before beginning repairs on Rattler Gymnasium, plus the elementary, middle and high schools, because of damage from the May hailstorm.

Johnson said they hope to finish the repairs by August. Insurance would cover nearly all of the costs.

— Bright-Lesley said the basketball teams’ Homecoming game was set for Jan. 25 against Clayton.

Also, prom is scheduled for April 19, though a location still has not been chosen.

— Middle school principal Lendall Borden said “nice improvement” was seen from his students from midyear assessment tests.

— Athletic director Wayne Ferguson said meets for the high school’s new powerlifting program were pushed back due to the late arrival of equipment. Meets have been set for Feb. 19 and Feb. 25, with state competition in April.

Ferguson also said May 17 graduation would be rescheduled if its baseball or softball teams are playing in the state tournament on that date.

— The board approved a resolution designating board members and employees as authorized signatories for district bank accounts.

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