Aug. 2010 Introductory Column

Thanks to the generosity of The Hobbs News-Sun, this column will be a component each month of a page specifically dedicated to Hobbs Municipal Schools and some of the great stories and events that occur every day in all of our buildings. It’s my intent to use this forum to keep you up to date on the big events occurring within our district.
Does being hired as superintendent qualify as a big event? I was promoted to the position in July, almost three years after I left the superintendent’s position in Tatum to become a Hobbs administrator. The transition from a small school system to one of the largest in the state is less jolting than you’d think. Kids are kids everywhere and seem driven by many of the same interests regardless of their proximity to a shopping mall. Parents everywhere also share a desire that their children attend safe schools and benefit from teachers who put their best effort on a daily basis. That is my objective as well.
However, I take over the district in the best and worst of times. Our schools and even our city are in the midst of a building spurt never before experienced in our history. At the same time, we also are suffering the largest budget cuts in our history. How can the building projects continue, many ask.
Hobbs voters in 2008 generously approved a $47-million bond issue for construction projects, chief among them the Freshman High School. The driving force for the bond issuance was the continued growth in our district. Our elementary schools are at or above capacity. In addition, voters continued two and four-mil levies which paid for recent projects such as the new Training Center. Money from those items cannot be used for salaries – the major component of an operating budget.
Losing $2.8 million in state funding in the spring was an obstacle but learning of an additional $1.6 million cut only weeks before school opened was numbing. The blow was softened with the passage of the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act a few weeks later, but we still had to scramble to cut an additional $250,000 from the budget just days before school began. We are expecting another cut in January. Cry me a river, say those of you who live from paycheck to paycheck and rely on the volatility of the oilfield and national economics for a job.
I agree. When times are tough, everyone must tighten their belt and that includes the school district. Early on we asked all of our employees to take an across-the-board cut of about 3 percent by reducing the number of days they work. I would like to emphasize, however, that your child’s classroom time will not be reduced as a result. Other cost-cutting measures included a 10-ercent cut for every department from athletics to the superintendent’s budget. We have also nearly eliminated professional training and travel from our budget. And the jobs of key personnel who retired in May, in most cases, were not filled. Those duties were absorbed by others in our district or remolded to conform to leaner times.
While I’m happy to say that everyone with a contract in 2009-10 was offered a contract for the current year, there will be a slight impact on the size of some classrooms – which will be larger. Had you walked with me through the hallways of all buildings on the first day of school, however, I think you’d agree that student and teacher alike were energized about returning to class. Like me, they look forward to the shiny newness that another school year brings.
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