Teachers support 9th-grade academy

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

In an hour and a half, the concept of a Clovis ninth-grade academy was explored, lauded and scrutinized. Administrators and teachers mapped progress in research of the concept, while some parents cast doubts.

Roughly 50 people gathered at Yucca Junior High School to discuss the concept of redesign of Clovis junior high schools.

Since a task force recommended the redesign in late August, the concept has been further researched. Findings reaffirmed the task force’s support of the concept that would create a separate school for ninth-graders and two middle schools to house seventh- and eighth-graders —with the transition of sixth-graders considered at a later date.

Parents, teachers and administrators visited ninth-grade centers in Texas and New Mexico.

Although a recommendation about which school would house the center has not been made, administrators made sketches of how a ninth-grade center at Gattis, Marshall or Yucca would impact the configuration of the school district.

Those sketches will be presented to school board members at their first meeting in January. In late January or February, board members will consider the redesign, administrators said.

Should the redesign be approved, Clovis Schools Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm said she wants to implement the new concept starting with the 2007-2008 school year.

Teachers overwhelmingly support the concept, according to a survey administered in Clovis Schools.

“I see it as really important to do something different (with Clovis junior highs),” Yucca teacher Mike Rutledge said.

Rutledge was part of a group that went to Caprock High School in November to study the ninth-grade center within it.

In Clovis, teachers said ninth-graders are flippant toward gathering high school credits because they are housed with seventh- and eighth-graders.

“It’s hard to tell my ninth-graders they need to be concerned about high school credits when an eighth-grader is sitting beside them,” said Diane Beloat, a Yucca teacher who also visited Caprock High School.

About 33 percent of Clovis ninth-graders move onto Clovis High School without the proper number of credits, according to administrators.

“The hole only gets deeper,” said Clovis Schools Director of Instruction Cindy Martin.
“Many,” she said, “cannot see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

A redesign would create a better social and academic environment for seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders, according to administrators and task force members.
Some parents, however, are wary.

“I am not sold on this at all. There are lots of concerns I have,” said Paige Wheeler, the mother of a Clovis seventh-grader.

Wheeler and others expressed concerns Thursday about the way a junior high reconfiguration would impact sports, extra-curricular activities, academics and the safety of their students.

School officials said sports and extra-curricular activities would largely remain the same or improve with a reconfiguration. Ninth-grade students in sports would be divided into two equally skilled teams and would alternate games with other New Mexico schools. Choir students would be instructed along with the high school choir.

Another mother voiced worries about sending her child to school in a district considered dangerous.

Seidenwurm responded all Clovis Schools are within about two miles of each other, gang members are disbursed at schools across the district, and unforeseen, dangerous situations can occur anywhere at any time, despite extensive preventive measures.

Two more meetings concerning the reconfiguration will be held at:

— 6 p.m. Monday at Marshall Junior High School, 100 Commerce Way
— 6 p.m. Thursday at Gattis Junior High School, 1400 Cameo St.