Board faces difficult, necessary decision

By Rhonda Seidenwurm: Guest Columnist

Editor’s note: Clovis Municipal Schools Board of Education will meet at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Marshall Junior High to consider school consolidation. The meeting will be open to the public.

As the superintendent of Clovis Municipal Schools, I have presented our Board of Education with one of the toughest decisions a board ever has to make — the decision to close a school.

No matter how logical the decision seems to those not closely involved with the affected school community, the sincere emotions expressed by those directly involved with losing a cherished icon are strong and deep.

I appreciate this opportunity to share with the Clovis community my reasons for making the recommendation to consolidate Lincoln-Jackson Arts Academy with Bella Vista Elementary School and move our Ranchvale students into Barry and Sandia Elementary schools.

I want to make it clear that my recommendation to close only two schools — when our student population has dropped 1,400 students from just 10 years ago — is predicated on the firm belief that Cannon Air Force Base will have a new mission, will remain open, and that Clovis will grow.
Otherwise, I would be recommending that we close an additional school.

In a year when the district is facing a possible budget shortfall of $1.4 million, it is imperative that we find ways to cut costs that will not negatively impact student achievement. However, there are additional reasons for this recommendation.

Lincoln-Jackson: The Arts Academy is a nationally recognized arts-infused program whose only drawback is the size of the campus on which it resides. Because the campus is so small, the largest number of students that have ever attended the Academy is 162 — even though there is a long waiting list of families in Clovis who would like their children to have the opportunity to attend the Academy.

A school of that size is extremely inefficient to maintain, and moving the program to Bella Vista will give many more children the opportunity to participate in the arts curriculum that Lincoln-Jackson offers.

The move should ensure a bright future for Bella Vista, and the historic Lincoln-Jackson site will continue to be used to provide educational services in the community.

Ranchvale: The “country school” charm of Ranchvale is also its major drawback. Example: Emergency response times to schools within the city limits range from one to four minutes; response time to Ranchvale is 11 to 15 minutes. The difference could be literally a matter of life and death.

Of approximately 1,200 military students who attend Clovis schools, all but 220 or so already have the advantages associated with attending schools in the city limits. Given that the bus ride from the base to Barry or Sandia is only two to four minutes longer than the bus ride to Ranchvale, it makes good sense to provide all of our military students with the advantage of being within the city limits.

There is not space here to review the full case for the consolidation that I am proposing Tuesday evening. But there is an extensive question and answer feature on our district Web site that is a direct result of the community input given at our board meeting on Nov. 1. I would invite you to visit our Web site

www.cms.k12.nm.us

for a more comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Rhonda Seidenwurm is superintendent for Clovis Municipal Schools. She can be contacted at 769-4320 or by e-mail:
rhondas@clovis-schools.org