School merger talks center on jobs

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

This is Rosa Soria’s second year as the cafeteria manager at Bella Vista Elementary School. Though she has worked within the school district for 13 years, she isn’t sure she will have the same job next year.

“My concerns are for my job — that I will lose it,” Soria said Monday evening in the Bella Vista gymnasium.

Soria and about 40 Bella Vista parents, faculty and staff members gathered for the first of six community discussions led by Clovis Municipal Schools superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm.

Fears over job security dominated the discussion.
Seidenwurm recently proposed Lincoln-Jackson Arts Academy merge with Bella Vista Elementary and Ranchvale Elementary School be closed. Whether the district shrinks or grows with Cannon Air Force Base, the superintendent said her proposals are needed. She said student population of the district’s elementary schools are too small.

“The reason we absolutely have to do something at this point is economic,” Seidenwurm said.

The district could cut costs by combining Bella Vista and Lincoln-Jackson “so we are paying one librarian, instead of two, one cafeteria staff instead of two, one custodial staff instead of two,” Seidenwurm said.

The merger would save the district $184,750, according to figures provided at Monday’s meeting.

Seidenwurm said her proposals will not result in job loss for Bella Vista teachers; however, she said her proposals, if approved by the school board, could result in the transfer of some Bella Vista staff and faculty to different schools, and could result in job loss for “one-of-a-kind” positions, such as librarians.

She said faculty with certification will be given priority over those without certification. Seniority will also factor in making decisions about which staff to retain at which schools according to district policy.

However, Seidenwurm stressed natural attrition will nullify potential job losses.

“I do not anticipate any job losses at all because we hire so many new staff every year,” Seidenwurm said.

Still, many in attendance didn’t advocate the merger.
“I don’t like it,” said Bella Vista parent Frances Mason, the short phrase repeated more than once Monday.

Also addressed at Monday’s meeting were the following questions:

What is an arts-infused curriculum?

Bella Vista Elementary would adopt the arts-infused curriculum already in place at Lincoln-Jackson. An arts-infused curriculum does not replace traditional subjects such as reading, math, science, and social studies, but instead supplements those subjects with arts-based activities, said Lincoln-Jackson principal Shelley Norris.

“Your best teachers in any school building are already infusing arts and they don’t even know it — by having children write poetry, write lyrics, and read books,” Norris said.

Will students who live in the Bella Vista neighborhood still have priority entrance if the schools merged?

Yes, children who live in the Bella Vista school will have priority admittance, according to Seidenwurm.

Could a child attend another school in the district if his or her parent lives in the Bella Vista neighborhood but does not want their child to attend the school (if it merged with Lincoln-Jackson)?

Yes, transfers are not uncommon among schools in the district and are permissible, Seidenwurm said.

Is the merger a result of AYP performance?

According to the superintendent, the merger was not proposed due to AYP performance at either schools. It was proposed because Bella Vista and Lincoln-Jackson are two of the smallest elementary schools in the district, Seidenwurm said.

“I never saw this as something we are doing to Bella Vista. I saw this as an incredible opportunity for kids in this area,” Seidenwurm said.

She did say that AYP scores among neighborhood students at Lincoln-Jackson are significantly higher than other students’ in the district. For a closer look at AYP scores in the district, you can visit http://www.ped.state.nm.us.

Will the merger change class sizes at Bella Vista?
No, class sizes will remain the same, as per state regulations, according to Seidenwurm.

How will Bella Vista accommodate the influx of students?
Portable classrooms, in use on many Clovis campuses, will be used temporarily at Bella Vista. The district eventually hopes to add on permanent wings at Bella Vista, Seidenwurm said.