A mother’s wish for her children to attend Los Lunas schools has almost been resolved after a three-year battle.
The Belen School Board approved an agreement that allows Elizabeth Ayala’s two children, ages 7 and 9, who live at 2868 NM 47, to be transported by Los Lunas school buses from their home in the Belen district to Los Lunas schools.
In 1999, when the Belen and Los Lunas school districts agreed to move the boundary line between the districts to Patricio Road in Tomé, it alleviated one problem, but caused another.
Ayala wanted her children to attend the school district she did while growing up in her family’s home, but, when the district boundary was changed, the home at 2868 NM 47 was located in the Belen district.
“I grew up in the same house and I went to Los Lunas schools. My husband and I both graduated from Los Lunas High School. We don’t feel it is right that the districts move the line and we have to change where our children go to school,” Ayala told the Belen Board of Education last week.
Since September 1999, Ayala has been struggling with the school districts to receive a temporary bus-boundary agreement to allow her children to be transported by Los Lunas school buses to the northern Valencia County school district.
“Neither district administration wanted to work with me,” Ayala said. “Both school boards have been understanding. But, at first, I couldn’t get the district transportation directors to understand that the state statute has a special clause for situations like ours — when the boundaries change but the families have not moved and they wish to continue attending the district they formerly lived in.”
In September 2000, the Los Lunas Board of Education passed a temporary agreement, but the Belen School board did not take action.
“Finally, I received help from Gilbert Perea of the State Transportation Department,” Ayala said. “He appeared before the Belen School Board in May 2001 and informed them that my request was legal.”
Unfortunately, the agreement fell through the cracks during the spring of 2001 when Superintendent Marie Garcia-Shaffner retired after her son was in a life-threatening bicycle accident. Jerry Martinez served as interim superintendent until Don Duran was hired in August 2001.
When Duran came on board as superintendent last year, he signed a letter of agreement allowing Los Lunas to transport Ayala’s two children.
“But no formal agreement was approved by the school board. It is time we put this issue to rest,” Duran said as he presented his recommendation on the issue at the Belen board’s meeting.
“Because Belen and Los Lunas share many students whose parents provide transportation to cross district boundaries, I recommend that the request for a temporary boundary be denied to Mrs. Ayala,” he said.
After Duran’s recommendation died because none of the board members made a motion, Board Member Al Wisneski moved that the board approve a temporary boundary agreement to allow the Ayala children to be transported by Los Lunas to Los Lunas schools for the duration of the children’s public education careers.
“This agreement is only for the Ayala children, since they were Los Lunas students when the boundary was changed and they have not moved,” said Board Member Paul Trujillo. “It is not setting a precedent for other parents to receive temporary boundary agreements.”
After the unanimous approval, Duran said he would call Los Lunas Superintendent Danny Burnett to report the board’s action.
“The Los Lunas Board will have to approve the agreement now if it is to stand. Once both boards agree, then an attorney will write a contract that both school boards will sign,” Duran said. “If both boards do not accept the contract, then the Belen board’s action does not stand.”
After the meeting, Duran explained to Ayala that he had signed last year’s letter of agreement the second day he was Belen’s superintendent, under the advice of Martinez.
“But now I have looked into the situation and I don’t agree with the practice of transporting students across school district lines. There are too many situations out there where people would like their children to be transported by school bus to the other district,” he said. “How-ever, the board has spoken, and I take my marching orders from them.”
“I’ve been fighting this for three years,” said Ayala. “The state has told both boards this type of agreement is legal. Last year, Los Lunas signed it, but then Belen dropped the ball. Hopefully, Los Lunas will continue to support me and approve the agreement again this year.”
In other action, the board:
- Accepted the resignations of Belen High School journalism teacher Albert Martinez and Belen High School drama and English teacher Ignacio San-chez, who both were active in student extracurricular activities. Martinez has accepted a teaching position at Rio Grande High School in Albuquerque. Sanchez is moving out of state.
- Received the resignations of teachers Mike Gutierrez, BHS social studies; Susan Kemp, BHS special education; Yvette Wulf, Central Elementary; Travis Simpson, Dennis Chavez Elementary; Shaun Gallaher-Sanchez, Jaramillo Elementary; Doreen A. Winn, La Merced Elementary; Martha K. Ward and Cruzita Sanchez, both of La Promesa Elementary; and Hollyanna Hooks, Rio Grande Elementary. Also resigning was Valerie Martinez, Jaramillo Elementary cafeteria aide.
- Accepted the retirements of Angelina Sanchez, after 32 years of service as a school bus driver, and Pat Fleming, a teacher who most recently served at Rio Grande Elementary School.