Leaky TMS Budget Process Sinks Teachers and Students

By: Bill Whaley
18 June, 2011

The top-secret document concerning the TMS budget for next year was approved on Friday, June 17, 2011. Whether or not it meets with NMPED policy and directives, we don’t know. Certainly, one Board of Education member, Stella Gallegos, disagreed with the process and voted against approval.  Regardless the majority of the TMS board, who has frozen out their colleague, appears to be at odds with Gov. Martinez’s emphasis on cutting administrators and saving teachers for students in the classroom. Below, Lorraine Coca-Ruiz reports from her vantage point at the meeting.

(During executive session, education activists were seen giving the Governor’s representative an earful about the issues. Apparently, dueling lobbyists are vying for the Governor’s attention. This year the controversy isn’t about tortillas: It’s about students.)


To Heck with PED and the Governor!

By Lorraine Coca-Ruiz

At Friday’s June 17, 2011 TMS Board of Education special meeting, the 2011-2012 District Budget was approved after much discussion in 4-1 vote. Board member Stella Gallegos voted against approval. She must have read the Governor’s handout, NMPED’s Guiding Principles for the Development of School District Budget.

The NMPED handout includes Governor Martinez’s reform agenda called “Kids First, New Mexico Wins.” The document aims to increase accountability and transparency, aid struggling schools and students, prioritize funding for the classrooms, eliminate wasteful spending and reward our state’s excellent educators and leaders. The guiding principles include:

1.Student Achievement Drives Spending

2. Classroom Dollars Come First: Classroom spending that benefits students and teachers is the foremost priority. Administrative costs are kept at a minimum and administration is streamlined wherever and whenever possible. When cuts must be made, instruction and services most critical to raising student achievement, increasing graduation rates and providing opportunities for student success are preserved.

3. Transparency and Good Policy govern Budget Making.

4. Academics inform Long-Range Planning.

5. Students with special needs are accurately identified and receive critical services in line with generally accepted teachers caseloads under the individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Bilingual multicultural programs focus first on academic and language development. Professional training for teachers should be high quality, content-based, and meet the needs of classrooms and students.

The budget document was distributed after public comment when someone in the audience requested a copy. I have attended five budget meetings and this is the first time that a complete budget document was given to those attending the meeting.

The pick and choose “hit list” included 37 terminated first and second year teachers. Superintendent Weston said he was saving one million dollars, which means that he saved his salary and the  salaries of CRAB hall employees.

He also said that he is going to be advertising for teaching positions. Those with pink slips can re-apply and should at least get a “courtesy interview.” The Super said that the district would cast a wide net in order to hire the best people. Unless he reviewed job performance evaluations, he has classified those with pink slips as bad people.

The lay off s should have waited until a budget was prepared. The finance director is on administrative leave. The district is paying a consultant and overtime to staff in an effort to meet budget deadlines. The Director of Instruction/federal program was not at the meeting and Weston couldn’t answer questions regarding specific line items.

He also insisted that he and the administrators received a 1.5% cut for the 2011-2012 budget, not so; the cuts were for the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

Here is a copy of an email that was sent last year:

From: Dr. Rod Weston

To: Arsenio Cordova

Cc: Lorraine Coca-Ruiz ; Stella M. Gallegos
; Chuby Tafoya ;
Enrico M Velasquez ; Enrico Velasquez
; “”Spinelli, Bobby””
; Ramon Vigil
Sent: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 7:34 PM
Subject: Re: Coverage

Arsenio,

The legal opinion is that once the negotiated agreement is settled and signed (Board approval) the necessary budget adjustments will need to be made. This relates to those in the bargaining unit. This is the short version of my conversation with Ramon. He may or may not choose to add clarifications.

Perhaps we should go back and listen to the tapes of the meeting. The environment of the meeting and its focus were on returning to negotiations and submitting a budget to meet the PED requirements. If it is the Board’s intention to cut non-bargaining unit employees by 1.5%, a simple motion to that effect at the July meeting would accomplish that. My salary has already been cut by 1.5% via a check in that amount being returned to the District. For others, the cut will simply be prorated throughout the remaining paydays.

Regards,
Rod

Weston and his administrators have not had a salary cut for this fiscal year. Let’s wait and see if the budget is approved by PED. The TMS schools may be facing huge mid-year budget shortfall, education is already behind. It’s just going to get worse.

I’ll be watching

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