By Tony A. Archuleta
The state Public Education Department’s A-F grading system and planned teacher evaluations that have created a stir elsewhere hit home during Thursday’s, July 19, School Board meeting.
Superintendent Tom Burris, leading a PowerPoint presentation on behalf of an absent Robert Vise, the district’s data coordinator, showed a performance breakdown of letter grades for schools within Truth or Consequences Municipal School District.
The schools and their respective grades: C at Hot Springs High, C at Truth or Consequences Middle School (four-tenths of a point away from a B, Burris noted), D at Sierra Elementary Complex, D at Arrey Elementary and F at Truth or Consequences Elementary.
Board member John Ashbaugh, who was recently appointed by the board to fill the remaining term of Randy Piper, thought he witnessed a couple of teachers snickering during Burris’ presentation, prompting a heated outburst.
Ashbaugh loudly proclaimed, “F, D, D, give me a break!”
He called perceived lighthearted reaction to the report “uncalled for.”
Saying he was “burned up about this,” Ashbaugh added, “If you’re not embarrassed, I’m embarrassed for you.”
The teacher, whom Ashbaugh seemed to be directing his comments, took exception to his remarks, saying, “That’s unprofessional of you, Johnny!”
The teacher said she was in no way making light of the low grades, and noted she and her colleagues put in long hours in the classroom.
The crossfire continued until Board President Jay Johnson restored order, saying it was a “meeting to get business done.”
“If you guys want to talk about this later between yourselves, that’s fine,” Johnson said. “But right now, we are here to get business done. I would appreciate it if we kept this meeting civil. Thank you very much.”
Ashbaugh, after hearing from other staff members, including TCES Principal Hank Hopkins and SEC Principal Melody Goode, softened his stance, noting that Truth or Consequences Schools is not the only district struggling to get a handle for the new grading system that is replacing the Adequate Yearly Progress model of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Ashbaugh noted that local units of government frequently struggle with unfounded mandates, and he also added that other school districts in the state have fared “worse” than Truth or Consequences Schools.
Superintendent Burris, during a telephone interview the following day, said SEC dropping from a preliminary grade of C to a final F is particularly perplexing.
“That’s one, I don’t know how the metric works,” he said. “There is no historical data with third grade kids. The SBA (Standards Based Assessment) is not given at the first or second grade.”
•In her report, HSHS Principal Tamie Pargas said she wanted to raise awareness and begin discussion on the fact that half of the incoming senior class is not proficient in math and/or reading.
Pargas said her observation is based on last year’s SBA testing results.
“We have got our work cut out with this group,” said Pargas, adding administrative and teaching step will have to step up intervention measures during the upcoming 2012-’13 school year.
•The board adopted its annual Open Meeting Act resolution, which includes the date and meeting location of board meetings.
Regular meetings will continue to be held the second Thursday of the month in the Board Room at Central Office on North Date Street.