By Marty Mayfield
Raton Public Schools Superintendent Andy Ortiz sees hope for the future of the Raton Schools after a couple of tumultuous years with budget cuts, staff cuts and cuts in programs.
Ortiz noted it has been a tough couple of years but he sees things turning around for the schools as morale is beginning to see a turnaround, student’s grades are improving and the financial outlook while it is still very tight is looking up.
The 40 Day count showed 911 students enrolled in the Raton Schools. Ortiz was hopeful the 80 and 120 day counts will hold, however in the past they often were slightly down from the 40-day count. Raton Schools are funded on the 80 and 120 day counts. Ortiz noted that last year the school showed 943 students. The lower numbers in one way are a positive in that the school is getting back some of its small school units, however, it would be nice to see higher numbers.
Ortiz noted that the district is in the process of updating their school facilities master plan that they have to have in place in case they have to go to the Public Schools Facilities Authority for emergency funding for repairs or other needs. The plan is required to be updated every five years and the current plan expires in 2017. Yes, the plan does include a new school however, building a new school is not in the works for at least a couple of years.
The Raton School’s buildings are old and in need of regular maintenance. How long can they keep this up before it becomes too expensive is the question and Ortiz knows that to meet technology demands and keep the buildings safe for students, one day it will require a new building, but as he noted, not this year. Other issues on the plan include a new track at the football stadium and other work there.
Over the years there have been complaints about the schools not being as good as they should be. Ortiz said that it takes a community to raise a student, students also have to be engaged and have the desire and want to succeed. He noted one of the most important things is parent involvement. He has told faculty, parents and others if they have a problem my door is open, come talk to me so we can fix the problem. Ortiz talked about programs that are in place to help students including some peer-to-peer tutoring. Teachers are available in the mornings before school to help students. There are other programs to help students, but if that student just doesn’t want to be there or do the work it is hard to make them.
Ortiz knows that parents were disappointed in some of the program cuts that were done last year but noted that while one teacher is not doing PE, PE is still happening just in a different way. He is also looking at ways to make improvements and bring more dual credit classes to the high school.
Overall Ortiz is optimistic that things in the Raton Schools are turning around and as he walks through the schools he is seeing positive teaching in the classes and students engaged in the learning process. Ortiz is still looking for ways to keep the budget lean and help the teachers accomplish their jobs.