Administrators not sure bill offering schools flexibility will survive

CNJ staff

It seemed a bill adopted Wednesday by the New Mexico Senate giving schools flexibility to deal with budget cuts might give districts some hope.

Not so, said Clovis Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm.

Seidenwurm said she doesn’t believe the bill will make it through the House and become law.

“This morning, we were hoping that we would have some flexibility,” Seidenwurm said. “We’re not very hopeful now.”

The bill would provide superintendents and principals more flexibility to deal with state budget cuts by suspending portions of the Public School Code.

The code sets individual class size, teaching loads, length of the school day, principals’ duties and subject areas.

Class sizes in Clovis depends on the grade.

Kindergarten classes are 14 students to one teacher; first grade is 20 students; second and third grades average 24 students; and fourth through sixth grades average 26 students.

In high school and middle school, teachers can see up to 160 students a day except in English it can only be 150.

Seidenwurm said she isn’t sure what options the district would try first if the bill should become law. She has asked principals at each school to provide administration with their suggestions for cutting their school’s budget by 5 percent.

“Anything I could say now would be speculation,” Seidenwurm said. “I just don’t know right now.

“If we go for any of those options, I will get them from those that are in direct contact of the budget,” she said. “I don’t want to go to the board with suggested budget cuts with no feedback from those it will affect.”

Seidenwurm said she’s expecting the special session Legislature to hand down a 2 percent cut from the district’s general operating budget and a 6.5 percent cut from any special money, including transportation and technology.

The district has frozen positions in several offices and won’t be filling positions that become vacant. The superintendent said the district looses between eight and 12 teachers a semester.

“We don’t want to have to fire anyone mid-year. We want to be able to adjust by letting our attrition handle those cuts,” Seidenwurm said. “This is a serious proposition.”