Among the 21st century buzzwords, acronyms and abbreviations, CRT is one of the most-discussed.

It refers to critical race theory. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, it’s an “intellectual movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of colour. Critical race theorists hold that the law and legal institutions in the United States are inherently racist insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans.”

Be that as it may, it won’t be taught or discussed within Rio Rancho Public Schools, barring inclusion within state standards in the future.

Sue Cleveland

“We just received so much public comment on this and felt like it was important for us to just kind of go over it,” board President Amanda Galbraith told the board, after hearing a brief presentation on the subject by Chief Academic Officer Carl Leppelman.

In regard to the controversial critical race theory, which has garnered board members emails calling for it not to be taught within RRPS, Superintendent Sue Cleveland said CRT is “normally taught in higher ed … (and is) not appropriate for K through 12.” Thus, it’s not in RRPS’s curriculum.

Leppelman reiterated that CRT is not included in state content. After the Public Education Department concludes its current review of state standards — if CRT is even within any proposed updates to the social studies curriculum — such a move would necessitate public input and public hearings, which is an extensive process.

“We definitely do not support racism,” Cleveland added. “This is a framework that was designed for higher education, primarily graduate degree programs.”

Board member Jeffrey Morgan said he didn’t hear an actual definition of CRT in Leppelman’s report, which would have helped. Cleveland said, “… there is not a real clear definition of what it is, and different people have attributed different thoughts and ideas and actions (to CRT) … and it means lots of different things to different people.”

“I think that it probably needs to be defined (better), Vice President Morgan,” Leppelman said, “but at this point, we really can’t build standards on it.”

All systems ‘go’ at RRPS

In her opening comments, Cleveland said Monday’s first day of school for elementary students went smoothly, although there was a lot of traffic, which was to be expected.

At one school, she said, afternoon student pickup lines “were stretched a really, really long way.

“And we are seeing a good trend that many of the students who left the district last year are returning,” she noted, “and we’re delighted to have them coming back.”

Secondary school openings, which took pace Aug. 5, also went smoothly, Cleveland said. A shortage of lockers at Cleveland High School — which has 2,700 students — is a challenge.

The school board also:

  • Commended the Curriculum & Instruction, and the Federal, Bilingual and Native American programs staffers.
  • Listened to a presentation by longtime financial advisor Eric Harrigan on how the district could save close to $520,000 in interest by refinancing the 2013 bonds, which could be an item to vote on at the next meeting.
  • Recognized five music teachers/leaders highlighted by Fine Arts Executive Director Kurt Schmidt: Jadira Flamm, who leads the CHS choir, was named the Music Educator of the Year; Ana Maria Dark of Rio Rancho Elementary earned the John Batcheller Award for elementary school teaching; Joshua Dumais, associate band director at CHS, was named the New & Emerging Music Educator of the Year; former Fine Arts Executive Director Debbie Fleming, now retired after 12 years with RRPS, will be enshrined into the New Mexico Music Educator Association’s Hall of Fame — “an honor most fitting for her,” Scmidt said — and RRPS earned a certificate of distinction for its support of music education.
  • Approved an agreement for fencing materials and repairs on demand, as well as a bid from National Roofing Co. to demolish and install what amounts to a 28,000-square-foot roof at Independence High School.

The board’s next regular meeting is slated for a virtual session Aug. 23 at 5:30 p.m., which also will be live-streamed.

To read the Encyclopedia Britannica’s full article on critical race theory, visit britannica.com/topic/critical-race-theory.

About the author

Gary Herron | Observer staff writer