By Danna Lopez
The Governing Council of the Aldo Leopold Charter High School convened its monthly meeting on Thursday evening at 5:31. Shauna McCosh called the meeting to order with Director Wayne Sherwood, Development Director Dave Chandler, Financial Director Harry Browne, Board members Mary Gruszka, Martin Maxwell, A.J. Sandoval, David Peck, and Kristin Osborn in attendance. All approved the evening's agenda and both the mission and vision statements were read. No students were present to represent the Student Council, though the council and staff will be making an effort to promote more student involvement in these meetings during the coming school year.
First to make a presentation was Guidance Counselor and District Test Coordinator Cheryl Head who presented the PARCC test results for the 2016-2017 school year. Students tested in English, Language Arts, Math and Integrated Math and demonstrated an upward trend as students advance in grade level and scoring indicates that their students are gaining over time "the longer they have the kids" enrolled at Aldo Leopold. With more than 30% of their students on an IEP, they still performed at or above state and national standards in the majority of subjects tested. Head noted that all norms are test-specific not grade-specific and also pointed out that, nationwide, only six states are now participating in the PARCC testing. She also made clarification as to why their school grade dropped from a 'B' to a 'C,' which is because the first year they participated in the PARCC testing, they scored very high and were subsequently dropped because they "hit the top-end so early it was hard to keep pushing the envelope so high." Also mentioned was the fact that the have 27 seniors on track to graduate—their biggest class ever.
According to Head, the 2017-2018 enrollment is at 175 students middle school through high school. The class schedules are ready and there is an "all school" orientation/get-together scheduled for this Saturday, August 12 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Gomez Peak Pavillion for all students and parents with activities and other information available about the coming year—lunch will be provided. Classes begin Monday, August 14 with a "mini schedule" for High School which includes Advisory Groups, Backpack Base Camp to practice some basic skills, orienteering, first aid, etc. and Middle School will begin its Mini Village project which "sets a tone for the year," with leadership styles, working together in groups, problem solving and more.
Harry Browne reported that several staff members scouted trails near Mogollon and Snow Lake (among others) this past week to prepare for the upcoming school year reporting that some trails are less reliable than usual due to lack of maintenance so they will be omitted from any school hikes.
Director Wayne Sherwood stated that five staff members attended a suicide prevention workshop last week. It was very beneficial and, according to Head, necessary to sensitize people and raise awareness for the growing issue.
Harry Browne distributed and reviewed the budget for Fiscal Year 2017. The Fourth Quarter report will be finalized by next week. He pointed out that the (roughly) $160,000 deficit increased somewhat higher than expected and he is anticipating another deficit next year. Note: this may change once final numbers are in. Browne did note that an enrollment of 182 students would help with that deficit. There is a possibility of additional funds to be received from the Lease Reimbursement Application. However, the Public Education Department Capital Outlay may cut this option by 13% but this will be determined sometime in September. Another potential source of income could come from the annual Hold Harmless Funding. If available, this could translate to $40,000 - $50,000.
Shauna McCosh reported that the school will be compiling a satisfaction survey to be distributed in April and they will also be addressing communication strategies. They are also currently reviewing the Parent Involvement Policy (not to be confused with the Parent Volunteer Policy).
Sherwood gave an update on Facilities activities. Western New Mexico University has supplied plans for the new facilities on campus. The space is 500 square feet, which includes eighteen classrooms. Each of these rooms contains its own bathroom, which raises questions as to how those individual spaces will be used and reconfigured to have more centralized restrooms. Sherwood will speak with the university's architect regarding this issue. Two contractors are bidding on the work with a planned completion in December. The Facilities committee will meet again to discuss any concerns once the contractors have the final plans. There was some discussion as to an open-campus policy for which Sherwood intends to include Campus Police. He is very optimistic in stating that "we're moving forward."
The staff participated in a two-phase in-service this summer. According to Sherwood, the day began at the Little Walnut picnic grounds with team building activities, after which they returned to the school for a presentation on "Vertical Alignment," which emphasizes students journaling their experiences. This builds writing skills and provides a baseline for teachers. Various teachers also received First Aid training along with C.P.I. training in Deming (Note: the exact acronym wasn't clear but it does involve critical prevention intervention). Sherwood said he was pleased with the training and stated that it's "full steam ahead right now."
Sherwood completed his Director's report by stating that the PED completed its observations (similar to an audit) in February but did not release the findings until last week. All areas that require correction based on noted concerns must be addressed by September 1. Areas indicated by the PED representatives included director evaluations and open meetings. Issues have already been addressed and Sherwood will respond to the state to include official, approved minutes of the council's meetings.
Regarding evaluations and goals for the school, McCosh indicated that the three top priorities are the facility, strategic plans, and student achievement. Members will also review the self-evaluation for council members to be discussed at the next meeting. She also stated that the time of the council's meetings needs to be updated per the Open Meetings Act policy. Currently, the school announces their meetings 72 hours prior to the meeting however, they determined that this would be changed to 24 to allow for last-minute changes.
The final item for discussion was the change by PED requiring 10 hours of professional development training before council members can vote on board/council items. The change went into effect on July 25 stating that all training must be completed within two months of the changes. Unfortunately, all available training is offered in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Taos with no online option available for new members. McCosh stated she will send a letter requesting a waiver as travel at those distances is too difficult for members in this area of the state.
No other items were presented. The meeting adjourned at 7:16. The next meeting is set for Thursday, September 14, 2017 at 5:30 p.m.