Velarde Parents Voice Many Concerns & Questions At Superintendent’s Meeting Monday Night
VELARDE – Monday evening interim superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez held a superintendents meeting at the Velarde Elementary school to discuss the possible closure of that community school with residents of the community.
As previously reported HERE Española Public School District had requested permission from the State Public Education Department to shutter Velarde Elementary and consolidate its student population at the new Alcalde Elementary. PED has rejected the proposal twice, but the Española school board has now sued the state agency to try to compel them re-evaluate the closure application.
Velarde Elementary, which currently has 92 students enrolled, is a K – 6 school, with a Head Start program located on the campus which is independently run.
Approximately 70 parents of students who attend Velarde Elementary and other community members attended the meeting.
Several district employees, the school principles of Velarde and Alcalde elementary schools also attended, as did School Board President Pablo Lujan and vice president Lucas Fresquez.
Superintendent Gutierrez presented a slideshow that outlined the budget situation for the school district and the decision process made in the effort to close the Velarde campus. Gutierrez said that due to declining revenues and increase staffing expenses Española Public Schools are projecting a $1.9 million shortfall. Closing Velarde Elementary would save the district approximately $225,000.
Following Superintendent Gutierrez’s presentation the floor was open for community members to ask questions and make comments. Emotions ran high as more than 20 community members stood up to speak.
Kelly Duran, a parent of two Velarde students and the city manager for Española said to the crowd that he applauded superintendent Gutierrez for holding the meeting but asked why this was the first community meeting to discuss this topic in Velarde. He also pointed out that the projected savings from closing the Velarde school is less than 1 percent of the district’s operating budget Duran added “yet the closing of the school would affect a community and its children negatively, and only add to the district’s problems.” Duran also stated that in 2008 Santa Fe public schools passed a small school initiative and used the Velarde Elementary as an example of the successes that can come from small schools with minority populations.
See below for more images and comments from community members from Monday night’s meeting.
A second superintendent community meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 25, at the middle school at 5:30 p.m.
Community member Rod Sanchez questioned how voter approved bond funds to renovate Velarde could be redirected to other schools. He also asked about the projected legal costs to sue the state. Superintendent Gutierrez indicated that the cost is estimated to be between $35-50 thousand.
Ashton Salazar questioned if there was a political nature of the decision to close the Velarde school
Jerry Velarde said that he feels the school board may be using Gutierrez as a scapegoat for the decision making process. In an interview that he wished the district had followed the appropriate protocol in deciding whether or not to close the school.
Levi Valdez spoke on the importance of community schools like Velarde Elementary.
Evelyn Marusca seen standing and talking to the audience in this image. Amongs other topics Marusca asked what the long term plans were for teh building if the school was closed. Gutierrez said no final decision has been made but many options were being considered, including demolition. This response drew concerns over the impact to the Head Start program on the campus
Community member Eddie Velarde suggested that he and others would be willing to help fund legal opposition to closing the school.
Steve Salazar questioned what would occur with the "Small School" stipend provided by teh State to campuses with under 200 students.
Velarde Elementary Principal Augilar encouraged parents to keep fighting for their rights.