The Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education lost its District 1 board member this month but may soon gain a student representative.

The board seat will soon be filled, while the student voice, part of a pilot program, may rotate among the district’s four high schools: Cleveland, Rio Rancho High, Independence High and Cyber Academy. Cleveland High junior Ivan Torres spoke to the board at its Sept. 27 meeting.

Board President Amanda Galbraith expressed concern over any student representatives’ safety, telling the board she received a threatening letter at her home from an apparently unhappy community member.

“We have all these great ideas,” Torres said of today’s teens, “(but) we just aren’t able to express them … (We) should have a seat at the table.”

The board said it would consider that “seat,” although not with a vote on board matters. The challenges at each school differ, Superintendent Sue Cleveland said, and thus “more is better” when it comes to hearing voices from the four schools.

Board member Jeffery Morgan motioned that student representation on the board become a reality in the future; it was approved 4-0. The exact format could be determined at a future work session, where students will be invited to give input.

That school board seat to be filled was held by Wynne Coleman, who just resigned. She was elected in 2017 but decided not to run for re-election this year.

Wynne Coleman

That District 1 seat will go to the winner of the Nov. 2 race between Gary Tripp and Patrick Brenner. Board members wished her well in her future, with more of a tribute expected at a future board meeting.

Since the district began in 1994, only three board members have represented District 1: Karla Walker (1993-2001); Don Schlichte (2001-17); and Coleman.

Other business
In other matters, the board:
• Awaited an update on a Sept. 28 meeting between the district and Premier Medical Group for providing COVID-19 testing, ultimately to reduce time spent by students and staff seeking tests. “We don’t want our nurses doing the testing,” Cleveland said. “They’re stretched as it is.”
• Heard the district’s bond rating has improved, and that $15 million from the 2021A bond sale is available for facility and technology improvement projects.
• Heard second readings and then approved changes made to policies 750 (COVID-19 pandemic), 213 (compensation and expenses), 208 (board meetings), 209 (agenda and order of business at board meetings) and 1003 (open enrollment).
• Appointed Galbraith in a 4-0 vote to replace Coleman on the district’s audit committee because the state mandates that two board members must be part of that committee; one or two audit committee meetings are expected in the time that remains before the election. Noreen Scott is the other board member on that committee.

The board’s next regular meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 11.

Staff, students got Sept. 27 off
Thanks to a district-wide internet failure last week, students and staff had the day off Sept. 27.

The RRPS administration was notified Sept. 26 that a damaged fiber-optic circuit near Rainbow Boulevard disrupted access to the internet district-wide.

“While we could continue to hold classes, meals, etc., this outage impacts some of our core systems within the RRPS network, many of which impact the safety of our schools and student transportation. Therefore, we feel that the safest option at this time is to cancel school,” the district noted in an email to parents.

By late Monday, the fiber optic circuit was repaired and the internet and software and systems necessary to run the district safely were fully functional.

Gary Herron | Observer staff writer