Belen; Los Lunas

Belen Schools’ Superintendent Don Duran is seeking some cheap dirt for the district’s warehouse and maintenance departments new home. So he’s going for the home of cheap dirt.

The Belen School Board gave Duran the go-ahead Tuesday to go into negotiation with Casey Luna to purchase the former Ford dealership property on NM 314.

Duran said the 6.5 acre property and 22,600-square-foot building will house the district’s maintenance, warehouse and food services departments.

“Having this location would allow us to get these departments away from the middle school campus which will allow us to expand the middle school classrooms into this space,” Duran said at the board’s regularly scheduled Tuesday meeting.

“The property is big enough that at some point we could move the transportation department there as well, which would remove our bus traffic from the residential area of Belen.”

“My ad slogan of cheap dirt is coming back to haunt me,” Casey Lunas said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “I think we have made a good deal for both the school district and ourselves. We have made it as attractive as possible so they can work

with it.”

Luna said he was impressed with the way the school board approached the idea. “They are being very realistic. Instead of building from the ground up, they were looking for an existing facility. They have been working on this for some time.

Luna sold the Ford dealership to Brad Frances in July 2000. The new owners moved the dealership to Los Lunas in February 2001. The NM 314 site has been vacant since the dealership moved.

In personnel policy issues, the board discussed the structuring of selection committees for school administrator positions.

The committees for elementary school principals will be comprised of the superintendent, a board member, a teaching staff member from the school site, a non-teaching staff member from the school, a parent of a student currently enrolled at the school and one administrator from another school site.

The secondary principal selection committee will be comprised of the same people with an additional teacher and parent.

The committee will interview candidates and select two to be presented to the board for its determination of which one will be hired.

“The two candidates’ names will be presented alphabetically to the board. The board members will make the final selection,” Duran said of the proposed new process.

Board Member Paul Trujillo asked that the selection of the committee members be a random process. “I want to be sure there is no way a committee can be stacked, or that favoritism comes into play,” he said.

As the board agreed that the random selection process would be used for each position, Board President Julian Luna said, “We are trying to take politics out of the selection process. We are trying to get the most qualified person for the job.”

There will be two more readings of the policy before the board will vote for approval.

In other action items, the board approved:

  • Disposing of old items such as computers, desks, filing cabinets, bookshelves and chairs with an auction. Buyers may view the items at the district warehouse beginning March 4. Sealed bids for the items will be open on March 15.

In other non-action agenda items, the board:

  • Accepted a check for $1,600 from the Valencia County Hispano Chamber of Commerce for four $400 scholarships for Belen High School graduates.

“Our main focus is to give back to the youth of our county,” said Steve Otero, chamber president. “This money comes from the community. We are just the keepers of it while we direct it back to the community.”

Jacob Armijo of First State Bank said the money came from the chamber’s mantanza fund-raiser. The chamber is giving the same amount to the Los Lunas School District and the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus, for a total of $4,800 worth of scholarships.

  • Duran informed the board that the school district must redistrict its voting districts in accordance with the law. The districts are to be as equal in population as practical.

Students in Los Lunas joined millions of their peers across the country to celebrate the joy of reading on Thursday, Feb. 28, the birthday of Dr. Seuss.

Students, parents and educators in the Los Lunas Schools united for “Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?” at Raymond Gabladon Intermediate.

During the “swearing in” ceremony with Magistrate Judge Danny Hawkes, students pledged to be lifelong readers.

Families enjoyed eating birthday cake, listening to storytellers, joining the Cat In the Hat book walk and crawling in the reading tents.

This nationwide reading party is part of NEA’s Read Across America, sponsored by the National Education Association and many of America’s leading literacy, youth and civic groups. The local event kicked off district-wide school events scheduled for the first week of March. These include guest readers, door decorating contests, a poster contest and Cat In the Hat Days.

“Research shows that when children read outside of school, they do better in school,” says Sharon Morgan, president of NEA-Los Lunas. “So, from coast to coast, teachers, celebrities, community leaders and parents are joining together to find ways to excite our students about reading. Los Lunas’s activities promise to do just that.”

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Jane Moorman