Emotional Meeting As Velarde Elementary’s Fate Still Looms

Jerry Velarde, parent of students at Velarde Elementary speaks as Interim Superintendent Bobbi Gutierrez. VDP Image

Emotional Meeting As Velarde Elementary’s Fate Still Looms

ESPANOLA – Tensions ran high Thursday evening at the second community meeting with Interim Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez, regarding the possible closing of Velarde Elementary School. Superintendent Gutierrez was the sole representative from the Espanola School Board present at the meeting with nearly 30 community members and students.

After a quick assessment of those in attendance, Superintendent Gutierrez opted to not repeat the same presentation delivered at Monday’s meeting and opened the floor for a more informal conversation regarding the school’s potential closing. 

Velarde Elementary School parent Jerry Velarde, who was in attendance Monday night as well, engaged in a heated and emotionally charged conversation with Superintendent Gutierrez. Velarde voiced extreme disappointment with the overall process and lack of representation from the Espanola School Board. In his final remark, Velarde proclaimed, “This schools not getting closed down, I promise you that.” 

Jerry Velarde wasn’t the only person to voice frustrations. Feeling like Velarde students have been left with no options, Michael Martinez, grandparent of two Velarde Elementary School students, pleaded with Superintendent Gutierrez to invest in a quality, caring Principle for the school and to keep it open, claiming that the “school is the backbone of the community.”  Superintendent Gutierrez assured Martinez that she was proactively working on plans that would address either outcome of the court’s final decision regarding the closing of the school. 

Former Espanola School Board candidate and NEA member, Patrick Chavez, spoke in support of actions taken by the board and offered a perspective based on funding and the viability of the entire district. Although Chavez agreed the student-teacher ratio at Velarde would be ideal for every school, he noted that “running schools is a business” and the closing of Velarde was necessary.

At the end, a teary-eyed and emotional Superintendent Gutierrez expressed her disappointment with the reality of having to close a school and expressed concerns over growing budgetary constraints and tactics used by the previous administration that hindered the success of Velarde Elementary School. 

See below for more images and comments from Thursday night’s meeting.

Former Velarde student, Reba Sanchez, sought clarification for actions taken by the Board and previous Superintendent to close Velarde Elementary School and voiced frustrations on the decisions being made based on enrollment and test scores. VDP image

Espanola City Manager and Velarde parent, Kelly Duran, touted years of exemplary ratings high enrollment numbers at Velarde Elementary School. Duran noted that it wasn’t until unfair constraints were placed on the school that it began to fail. VDP image