Velarde's Fate Still Looms

by Reporter / Aug 11, 2015 / 3 comments

Velarde's Fate Still Looms

By: Tarin Nix

Suspense has mounted for over a year about whether or not Velarde Elementary School would be open to students this school year. A recent decision has given some parents hope that their fight has ended but Española School Board members haven't thrown in the towel, just yet.

After District Judge Jennifer Attrep, a Democratic Martinez-Appointee, heard testimony from Española School District staff and the Public Education Department (PED) Thursday, Aug. 7, she issued a ruling in favor of Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera and PED and overruled the Española School Board's 2014 decision to close Velarde Elementary School. Attrep's final ruling noted that Española Public Schools had not done their due diligence in showing how keeping the school open would cause financial difficulties to the tune of $500,000.

With the ink barely dry on Attrep's motion to stay order, the Española School Board called an emergency meeting for Monday, Aug. 10 at Carlos F. Vigil Middle School. With all members in attendance Monday night, an executive session was called that lasted over an hour.  Before leaving the regular meeting to discuss the closure, Ruben Archuleta noted to the almost nonexistent crowd, "why waste the time and money," in regards to continuing to pursue closing Velarde Elementary.

After returning from executive session, President Pablo Lujan quickly opened the floor to motions and Vice President Lucas Fresquez moved to file a dismissal of the pending litigation and not pursue that case any further.  By a 5-0 decision, the Board agreed to accept the judgment ordered by Judge Attrep. However, members weren't done yet.  Just as quickly as they accepted the final order, they voted 4-1, with Ruben Archuleta voting no, to instruct Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez to resubmit the application for closure of Velarde Elementary School with a timeframe that would have students relocating to Alcalde Elementary School by the first of January 2016. 

Vice President Lucas Fresquez noted, "This has been a very long process and some very difficult decisions have been made. I am confident that the Board will continue to make necessary decisions to create the best environment to educate and care for the students of the entire district." 

Some members feel confident that the issue that PED and Judge Attrep had with the previous administrations application will be resolved and thanks to the pro-bono work of the District's attorney, they believe the minimum cost will outweigh the negative impact the school staying open will have on the entire District. 

"Closing a school is the one decision School Board's hope to avoid.  We were given two options by the former administration. Close Velarde or close Alcalde. Obviously, both were horrible options but until Governor Martinez and Hanna Skandera are willing to give our District the proper funding, it is unfair for them to intervene on this issue," expressed Board President Pablo Lujan.

The next special meeting is scheduled for Aug. 13 at 5:30 p.m. at Carlos F. Vigil Middle School. 

Comments (3)

  • Concerned Velar... (not verified)

    I am in total shock and disbelief when you hear that the board members are so insistent in closing down our school. In the same short breaths it takes them to make such a disheartening decision, they make bold statements that Chimayo needs a new school. Why is the focus only on one community. Let me guess because they are all tied in to the Barney Trujillo, Pablo Lujan, Elias Fresquez trifecta! Velarde is just as important as Chimayo and our students deserve a great well-rounded education. They aren't going to get it if you squeeze them into Alcalde Elementary. I would suggest a class action suit against the Board of Education, all us parents should unite and hit them where it hurts!! Especially if they close down Velarde and build a new school for Chimayo, you better believe I will find an attorney!

  • Think Before Yo... (not verified)

    Perhaps the board should try saving money by not spending needlessly on contracts such as Barney Trujillo's, $50k landscaping contracts and board stipends, which they refused to reduce during budget time. Pablo has no idea how to budget money and is so arrogant to believe he knows better than Governor Martinez and Secretary Skandera. Have some respect Pablo! The board approved a  budget that stated that closing Velarde would save $225k (not $500k), they also failed to mention that the school district loses $310k in small school funding, so what is the real cost saving and negative impact that it has on the entire district by staying open? The negative impact it has is that district employees that are afraid of furloughs and those that have been fired blame Velarde because they have been told it is because the board has to keep the school open and they don't have money. They are playing teenage games by trying to get others in the district to place blame on Velarde. The blame should go back to the board. The budget is tight because Pablo doesn't have a clue as to how to budget money. Be cautious what you believe. He also lied when he stated that past administration gave them the choice of closing Velarde or Alcalde, that never happened. What administration? Danny Trujillo was in favor of closing Velarde even before he was superintendent, Art Blea was never in favor of closing schools (he even stated that it is not cost effective to close Velarde) and Evelyn Maruska was moving the renovation of Velarde along. Where is your proof Pablo? Please think before you speak, you are making a fool of yourself and the district. 

  • Heather (not verified)

    is this school board for real???? These so called elected officials doing what is in the best interest for the kids by closing down a community school is a mockery and a complete  disgrace  to anyone one with common sense. I'm not from this community nor am I resident of Rio Arriba; simply shameful 

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