From left, Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education member Gary Tripp, Superintendent Sue Cleveland, and board members Jeffery Morgan, Amanda Galbraith and Jessica Tyler were happy after Raquel Leon from Intel NM Public Affairs gave the district a big check for CTE Monday evening. (Courtesy photo)



Although Rio Rancho Public Schools’ new Career Technical Education building, which formerly housed the Alliance Data call center, wasn’t anticipated to welcome students inside until the 2023-24 school year, members of the RRPS Board of Education heard plans Monday evening to have small-engine automotive students and welding students there as early as August and for the start of the 2022-23 school year.

CTE Director Larry Davis said the district was able to use a grant to hire a second teacher, considering an expected 100 students wanting automotive technology classes. Automotive students had been taught and trained in the transportation center off Northern Boulevard in the past. A classroom, along with an area to work on small engines, will be ready soon in the CTE building.

The district will also have the use of a mobile welding lab, so welding students can learn about that trade in a classroom at the CTE building and get hands-on experience in the mobile lab outdoors.

Also in CTE news, a partnership with Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) was discussed, and it led to safety concerns: adult CNM students would be coming into the district’s CTE building and sitting alongside high school students.

The idea of mingling adults and teens has been in place at Rio Rancho’s CNM campus, but adult learners have not been allowed into RRPS buildings with RRPS students.

Parents and students of both institutions will be apprised of safety concerns, Davis said, with parents asked to sign waivers, indicating they are aware of those concerns. Davis noted that a similar arrangement at CNM’s southeast Albuquerque campus hasn’t revealed any such problems.

Davis informed the board that there are 26 CTE pathways anticipated, and the district has more than 3,750 students enrolled in CTE courses.

Pleased with recent grants coming CTE’s way, Superintendent Sue Cleveland reminded the board, “You can’t run a program on grants” and the need for a sustained revenue stream, which she hopes one day will come from the legislature or public education department.

Chances of legislative funding, Cleveland said, would increase, “leveraging our money,” if RRPS partnered with CNM.

“I think everyone across the state sees the need for this kind (CTE) program right now,” she said, noting the state’s future economy can take a step in the right direction with more trades people in the future.

The board voted 4-0 – board member Noreen Scott was absent – to commit to a 50-50 partnership with CNM.

One item that may not sit well with parents was recommended changes in the board’s first reading of Policy 906 (transportation), in which students bused to school in the past may now have to walk to school. In the past, elementary students living a mile or more from their schools were eligible to be bused; that distance will be increased to 1.2 miles. Also, middle school students go from 1.5 to 2 miles; and high school students go from 2 to 2.5 miles.

“This is a really hard decision,” Cleveland said, even in light of Chief Operations Officer Mike Baker telling the board, “Right now, we’re about $2 million in the hole” for transportation.

But with what transportation Executive Director Lynn Carl termed “a severe shortage of bus drivers,” this appears to be a viable route to take. With an estimated 700-750 fewer students to transport, meaning fewer routes, and making first-bell bell schedules 10 minutes later at some schools may help.

Cleveland said she doubted a lot of parents would want their younger children to walk the additional distance, and may decide to transport them to school in their vehicles. And, she added, drivers have reported that bad behavior on the buses makes their jobs difficult and challenging.

In other board matters:

  • Rio Rancho High School student Ethan Goldstrom was lauded for his top-10 placement in “Communications and Marketing Role Play” at the national DECA conference in Florida;
  • The board approved a $100,000 check “to provide students with enhanced career technical education opportunities” through a memorandum of understanding from the Sandoval County Commission;
  • RRPS happily accepted a $12,817.66 check from Intel’s employees at the computer firm’s Rio Rancho campus;
  • After thorough meetings with RRPS stakeholders, approved a three-year strategic plan aimed at: recruiting and retaining high-quality staff; having multiple pathways for students based on their strengths and interests; learning programs and opportunities targeting students’ needs; school supports for students mental and emotional health; and school safety and security. How to achieve those goals was also outlined. Cleveland said two words seemed to be common denominators of the lengthy process: quality and engagement.
  • Reviewed in a first reading the extensive changes being made to Policy 622 (student fees); and
  • Not only approved the evaluation of Cleveland in an earlier executive session, but also extended her contract three years, through the 2024-25 school year.

The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on July 11. One item surely to be on that agenda is the consideration and adoption of a five-year facilities master plan, which was tabled prior to Monday’s meeting.