By Christina Boyce
Raton Public Schools (RPS), working with new Superintendent, M. Neil Terhune, D. Ed., has been moving at a brisk pace to make sure the district is ready for the new school year. Terhune has been at work for RPS for just one week but teachers report back in three and a half weeks, on August 12th, and students will be back in class on Thursday, August 15th. KRTN attended Monday’s school board meeting and met with Terhune in his office Tuesday to report on the district’s progress.
The regular monthly board meeting on Monday was well attended. Public comments are taken at the beginning of the meetings and Nate Ashbaugh, who resigned as Choral/Band Director was listed on the agenda as the first item. Ashbaugh was not present as the public comments began. Board President Art Armijo announced that Linda Ortiz, sponsor of Raton Middle School FCCLA program, and students who had attended last week’s National FCCLA Conference in Nashville, TN, were also present to address the board. Armijo gave the floor to Ortiz and her students who reported on their conference experience, projects and awards.
Ashbaugh had arrived and was given his time to address the board. He was there to argue for additional staffing for the Choral & Band programs. Passionately advocating for music programming, Ashbaugh stated his opinion that the music department job description is more than one person can do and be expected to do well.
Lita Sanchez, Financial Director, announced that all district employees would see a 1% salary increase for the upcoming contract year during the financial report.
The board then discussed and approved a change in athletic/activity eligibility requirements that brings Raton schools into alignment with the New Mexico Activities Association (NMAA) GPA standard. This change lowers the required GPA for athletic and activities participation from a 3.2 to a 2.0 (with only one F). Ortiz, RMS teacher and FCCLA sponsor spoke to the loss of population in the school district, saying that the lower GPA requirement would increase the pool of eligible students for sports and other activities. Brian Saccomanno, Raton High School PE teacher and football coach spoke to the power of sports to keep students engaged and to prevent dropouts. Superintendent Terhune commented that the change “does not take away from the parents right to enforce a higher standard” for their own children.
Terhune reported that amongst the staffing changes, the job of Athletic Director (AD) would no longer be part of the Principal’s job description but would be split into two part-time positions hired internally. Terhune announced that Coach Saccomanno was one of the new ADs, however, the second AD candidate had not yet responded to the offer and Terhune would not name the candidate during the public portion of the meeting.
Terhune and the board were also waiting to hear from the principal search committee’s pick for the Principal at Raton High School. They went into Executive Session to discuss these personnel matters.
KRTN visited with Terhune on Tuesday afternoon to find out more about some of the changes and learned that the district has hired a new Principal for Raton High School: Erik S. Fredell, Ed. D. of Colorado Springs, CO. Fredell writes in his letter to the search committee that he returns to the “job I love, working with parents, students, and teachers to prepare for the future.” He has been taking care of elderly parents for the past two years. Prior to that he was Campus Director of Mohammed Bin Zayed Campus of Emirates National Schools from 2009 – 2011. He was the Principal at Air Academy High School in Colorado Springs, CO from 2001 – 2009, and served as Principal at Greeley West High School from 1996 – 2001. Fredell starts his job at Raton High School in two weeks.
Terhune also reported Teresa Kuchan’s acceptance for the second Athletic Director position. Kuchan teaches 8th Grade CMP mathematics at Raton Middle School. Terhune says that for now, Kuchan will handle the girls’ sports and Saccomanno will handle boys’ sports.
The position of Assistant Superintendent will not be replaced after Paul Malano completes his contract. That will affect the Special Ed Department, which will see some changes as the duties of Director of Special Ed are distributed within the department’s staff. Terhune believes that the changes will benefit students.
Terhune plans to make a practice visiting with KRTN’s listeners on This, That & the Other on Tuesday mornings after regular school board meetings and also half way between meetings. He’ll discuss what is going on in district, but he stated that he’d like to know what people want to hear about. Terhune can be reached at Raton Schools Administration office by phone at 575-445-9111.
Terhune plans to stop in on Thursday for his first visit. KRTN looks forward to the opportunity to speak with him. If you have any questions for Dr. Terhune please give us a call at 575-445-3652 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.