LOS LUNAS — During its November meeting, the Los Lunas Board of Education struck down a proposal by board member Bryan Smith to make the public comment process easier for constituents in a 3-2 vote.
The proposed policy, which underwent its third and final reading as per board policy during the meeting, would have allowed constituents to address the board on non-agenda items.
“It seems we are going above and beyond to not pass this policy,” said Smith, who first brought up potential changes to the policy during the board’s July meeting. “I am trying to represent the school community, not the school district. Administration does not control what the public and what the staff is allowed to say at a school board meeting, and we are making it easy to not hear from them.”
The current policy requires those wanting to address the board only do so concerning agenda items and to fill out a public comment form prior to meeting start. To get an item on the agenda requires another form and submission to the superintendent’s office 10 days prior to the regular meeting.
The first reading of the policy was in September, when Smith also proposed a temporary suspension of the three required readings for new policy prior to board approval to expedite the approval of the policy. The board voted down the suspension of the required readings, leading to the third reading and final vote on Nov. 29.
Los Lunas Board of Education President Tina Garcia had expressed during the second reading in October that she did not agree with the proposed policy and would be voting against it.
Board member David Vickers agreed.
“I have come to the conclusion that I like our current policy right now,” Vickers said. “We’re going to be addressing a more uniform policy when we go through that manual that the state has developed. Opening it up to discussion on anything and everything I think is not the role of this board. ”
Doing so would be creating a town hall, in Vickers’ opinion, and he would rather host separate town hall meetings to hear more concerns and priorities of constituents of the district.
“If an individual wants something on the agenda, they can talk to one of the board members and ask for something to be put on, or our president or superintendent can create an agenda item for that particular thing,” Vickers said.
Before the vote, board members Eloy Giron and Bruce Bennett began to bicker, addressing each other directly rather than through Garcia, after Giron mentioned previous statements Bennett made pertaining to the policy.
Policy review and revisions
Also during the November meeting, the board untabled and approved a resolution allowing the superintendent to interpret policy in accordance with the law as the board is undergoing a comprehensive review of district-wide policies to bring everything up to date.
“The intent of this resolution is to ensure that your actions, moving forward, allow the superintendent to act according to the statute and the regulation as it currently exists, simply because the policies themselves have been out of date,” said Roxie De Santiago, representing legal counsel Elena Gallegos.
The board approved an agreement in October to have its outdated policies reviewed and updated through a service provided by the New Mexico School Board Association. During the same meeting, Smith was appointed to serve as the lead for an ad hoc committee overseeing the policy review and revision process.
De Santiago said House Bill 212 already codified that state and federal law supersede district policy, however this resolution expresses an understanding by the board that the superintendent will follow law over policy if the two contradict.
The resolution was tabled during the last meeting after Smith expressed a misunderstanding to what was being asked of the board to consider.
“This process seems to be taking away the governing of the board policies from the board,” Smith said to the legal representative. “You are right, there is a level of trust, I get that.”
The legal representative clarified, saying the resolution is not meant to take away power since the board already cannot create a policy which contradicts the current laws and regulations.
“Even without this resolution, you still have to trust your superintendent on a regular basis to ensure that your superintendent stays in his own lane as well,” De Santiago said.
“Each party here — the board and the superintendent — has their lane and when those individuals cross over to the other lane is when there needs to be a discussion.”
The resolution was approved with 3-2 vote, with Giron and Smith as the dissenting members.
Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, SODA and the town of Peralta.