The Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education continued its summer trend of having short meetings, with two recent meetings that lasted fewer than 50 minutes followed July 31 by a meeting that barely lasted seven minutes, including the traditional recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

That’s because the board had spent two hours in executive session, and Superintendent Sue Cleveland didn’t see the need for redundancy in the regular meeting, with only a handful of people present.

In addition, she pledged to send a letter to every parent in the district, stating the district stressing the need for better attendance and behavior among students.

Disruptive behavior negatively impacts teaching and learning, and parents should talk to their students about the importance of a safe, respectful and orderly environment and how they can help make schools a safer place.

“We’re going to take behavior and attendance seriously,” said board member Jessica Tyler, who has a daughter attending Cleveland High School. “This is really to support the teachers.”

“I believe we have a commitment to our families to do just that,” said Cleveland. “I believe a majority of our parents want us to take some action in these areas to make this a strong district.”

“We want to stay a great district,” added board president Amanda Galbraith.

In Cleveland’s letter, emailed Aug. 1 to the parents, she said, “We believe that you have high expectations for your child’s overall educational experience and academic performance, and it is our goal to continue to meet those expectations. We need your ongoing involvement and partnership to make that a reality.”

Like school districts across the nation — and worldwide — Cleveland said, (RRPS) has been dealing with the ongoing aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We learned much from that experience, and now as a school district and a community, it is important that we move forward and bring back the high level of rigor and quality education we expect in our schools,” she said. “We want to ensure our students are prepared for college or career when they graduate from high school.”

After the 2022-23 school year ended, Cleveland said, a district-level team visited all schools listening to and collecting feedback from staff.

She wasn’t surprised to learn, “All school sites stressed that the greatest challenges to learning were absenteeism and disruptive behavior.”

Thus, in the 2023-24 that begins Thursday, Aug. 3, at all schools in the district, “These will be areas of focus for RRPS this year.”

RRPS will work in conjunction with the state’s Public Education Department, which added an emphasis on attendance.

Students who miss 19 days or more will be designated as a “chronically absent student,” regardless of whether the absences are excused or unexcused — missing even two days of school a month can have negative effects on a student’s academics, the letter notes.

The board, except for member Gary Tripp, not in attendance, unanimously OK’d the new plans for attendance and behavior.

“One important change is that RRPS high school students must attend 85% of the time in order to earn credit for class,” Cleveland wrote to parents, noting options to make up that time will be limited to summer school, etc., with a separate review/appeal process for families dealing with issues, such as major illness or hospitalization.

In addition to requesting cooperation from parents, RRPS is adding counselors, social workers and security personnel to provide for additional safety, security and well-being, with the goal of providing an environment where students feel safe and able to focus on reaching their educational goals.

“Working together, we can better prepare our students for success in college, careers, interpersonal relationships and life,” advised Cleveland in her final line.

The school board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Aug. 14.