Amanda Galbraith

Amanda Galbraith, the second Rio Rancho High School graduate to serve on the Rio Rancho Public Schools’ Board of Education, said she enjoyed her first year as the board’s president and wouldn’t say “no” to another.
The board, which meets in another virtual session Monday at 5:30 p.m., will reorganize. In addition to Galbraith, a member of the RRHS Class of 2000, Jeffrey Morgan is the vice president and Noreen Scott serves as the secretary. All three have just completed their first year on the board.
Members Catherine Cullen and Wynne Coleman’s terms end this year.
As of Tuesday, the district still plans to open its elementary buildings to students Jan. 19. School buildings serving grades K-5 can open under a hybrid schedule, as long as they are in counties that have demonstrated low-enough rates of COVID-19 spread and the New Mexico Public Education Department has approved the school’s reopening plans.
Galbraith said she thinks RRPS has done a good job in mitigating that spread.
For the 2020-21 school year to date, Rio Rancho Public Schools reported it had experienced 119 positive cases of COVID-19 for students who were on school campuses, employees physically present at an RRPS facility or working remotely and for contractors physically working at an RRPS facility.
RRPS began tracking with its first case in July. The total above is for cases through Dec. 31, 2020; the case count and tracking does not include cases for students not on school campuses.
“What we do know, from what we’ve seen in the schools, they were getting it from outside places — not in the school,” Galbraith said. “There were cases when kids were sent to school with the possibility of being sick — we can’t do that. Then we have to start quarantining kids.
“It is concerning, but at the same time, since we weren’t seeing spread at the schools, it made me feel better.
“I’m optimistic we’ll be able to open,” she said, “(but) there’s still no word on the secondary schools. I know the PED was making plans.”
The PED has previously said middle schools would open with a hybrid format four to six weeks after the elementary schools had opened, followed four to six weeks later by the high schools.
“I teach high school students, and I’ve never seen more in my life kids that want to get back to school — they want to be back in school, with their friends,” she said. “I’m teaching virtually, too; I teach the same schedule as (RRHS). I teach two classes, with about 30 students, about scripture and our (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) history.”
In addition to teaching virtually, she has four children in the school district: one in the elementary ranks, another in middle school and two in high school.
“Some of my kids have really struggled with (virtual learning); the majority of my children are fine,” she said. “One is in elementary school, (and) at the beginning of the year she put in the minimum work. That has since changed; now she puts in the work she needs to.”
A son, she said, has been struggling with the Edgenuity platform.
“(He) used to get straight A’s; it took time to get used to,” she said. “Now it works really well and we’re seeing less struggle.”
Her children do their online lessons on the district-distributed Chromebooks, “and my husband is a computer guy. … If one of the computers is not working, we have extra computers, and they use their phones sometimes.”
She’s not sure how well she would have done in a virtual learning format at RRHS at the end of the 20th century: “I am extremely social; when I went into college, they just started online classes — I struggled in those classes, because I wasn’t used to that kind of learning,” she said. “Now in my life, I’ve done a lot of online classes and it’s gotten easier for me.
“I tell (my children), ‘You are going to be doing this in college,’ so I think it’s really good for them to understand. They provide you with material and you have to learn for yourself.”
Galbraith’s found having four youngsters in schools here can be a sounding board.
“I’ll actually ask their opinions a lot of times: ‘How many Google Meets are you having?’ And about their teachers and instruction time. ‘You should tell them no more Goggle Meets, Mom,’ she said.
“I am fortunate to see it from every school (level) angle.”
The board’s youngest member said she’d be happy to serve another year as its president.
“I never came into it thinking I would be school board president,” Galbraith said. “It’s been a rough year and, honestly, I’d be happy to do it either way. I’m happy to serve in any way — it’s worked well this year.”

Gary Herron | Observer staff writer