A large percentage of the two-hour Jan. 17 meeting of the Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education was spent discussing high school students’ fees, basically a first reading of Policy 515.

Sherri Carver, executive director of student services, asked the board to approve inserting language that would allow the district to charge students for drug-test kits used for youth found in possession of vape pens and drug paraphernalia.

“These test kits cost quite a bit,” Carver told the board.

Before members could decide to approve any change and require a second reading at a later meeting, the question of student fees arose.

“There’s a place for student fees in our district,” noted new board member Gary Tripp, like Carver a former principal at Rio Rancho High School.

Student fees of $30 or so had once been assessed to all high school students and would provide them free admission to any school extracurricular activities.

The language of the policy, reading that an “annual student service fee may be charged at the high school level,” was then discussed at length before Chief Operating Officer Mike Baker suggested researching the history of when student fees had last been charged and when the district opted to stop charging them, and that information be brought to the board for another discussion.

“There’s not a right or wrong in this,” added Superintendent Sue Cleveland.

The board decided Baker’s idea was a good one – and that left Carver without a response to her wish to have the district reimbursed for the test kits.

Carver, recalling her time as RRHS principal, lamented, “It was very hard to collect the fees at times.”

Cleveland noted, “I would be happy if we didn’t have a single fee.”

The board unanimously OK’d the second reading of revisions to Policy 1016 (dress code) and had the first reading of Policy 1008 (student rights and responsibilities), also of concern to Carver in her new role.

Noting the 23-page policy is “maybe one of the longest policies we have,” she was hoping the language on page 21 could be revised to give the board more discretion when it comes to reviewing the long-term suspension or expulsion of a student.

She said that suggestion would be more in line with due process, as well as in alignment with the New Mexico Public Education Department’s thoughts on the matter.

“I think this is a good change,” board President Amanda Galbraith said.

New Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education member Jessica Tyler, center, is sworn in by retired 13th Judicial District Judge Louis McDonald, right, as her daughter Carley, son Chase and husband Bob are there for the occasion before the Jan. 16 board meeting. Gary Herron photo

In addition to reviewing the trio of policies, the board:

  • Unanimously awarded contracts to vendors for landscaping services on demand, project management software for the facilities department; replacing copper cabling at all of the district schools except for Rio Rancho Middle School, where that work was completed over the summer; and to five vendors for providing special education teachers and special ed assistants in the district’s area of highest need, the students with the most severe needs.
  • Applauded the swearing-in by retired District Judge Louis McDonald of November’s election winners Jeffery Morgan, who ran unopposed for re-election; Gary Tripp and Jessica Tyler.
  • Elected board officers, with no changes for the main trio: President Galbraith, Vice President Morgan and Secretary Noreen Scott. Tyler will be the chairwoman of the finance committee and Tripp will lead the audit committee.

The board’s next regular meeting is Monday.