(Note: this is a corrected version of the print story.)
The McCurdy Charter School Board got an earful from parents March 19 at its regular meeting.
The Board immediately went into executive session, where parent Danny Sanchez received a private audience with the Board, regarding his child and a problem with someone on staff. Sanchez wouldn’t elaborate on the 90-minute discussion, but did confirm there was no lawsuit pending.
When the meeting came back into regular session, parent Billy Merrifield diplomatically eviscerated the Board and administration, alternately offering help and demanding change in leadership. (A copy of those concerns can be found at www.riograndesun.com attached to this story).
Before the meeting began, he said a large group of parents, numbering about 25, met at Anthony’s at the Delta in early February. Most of those parents are afraid to address the Board, fearing retaliation from the administration, Merrifield said.
Specifically, they fear McCurdy Charter School Director Janette Archuleta, who has systematically removed good people in athletics and replaced them with “family and friends,” associated with her, parents said.
“She shouldn’t even be involved in hiring coaches,” Merrifield said. “She has an athletic director for that.”
At the self-described town hall meeting, McCurdy Charter School Junior High coach Julie Martinez said communication is nonexistent between the administration and parents and teachers. She also has problems with her athletic equipment orders being paid, an issue fleshed out during the meeting, when Merrifield asked for an accounting of the athletic budget, alleged to be depleted to $3,400.
The financials presented at the end of the meeting showed athletics revenue to be $125,730 from July 1, 2013 to Feb. 28, 2014, but did not show related expenses. A records request is pending with the charter school regarding that spending.
The group speaking before the meeting agreed that allegedly football, and especially basketball coaches, get whatever they want.
“Me, I offered to pay Doghouse (Graphix) for my own (volley) balls,” Martinez said. “I wasn’t going to leave him (unpaid) just because the school won’t pay him.”
During the meeting, Merrifield focused on academics more than athletics. He said he had been nominated at the Anthony’s meeting to be the spokesperson for the group of dissatisfied parents.
Merrifield began by stating the group brought their concerns to the School Advisory Committee, following protocol, and they had been ignored.
“This Board has heard various concerns,” Merrifield said. “We asked (the Committee) to bring this to this Board.”
Merrifield said education was at a very low point.
“We don’t have textbooks for our kids,” Merrifield said.
Before the meeting, Merrifield said one eighth-grade class had two books.
A message Friday asking for an inventory of textbooks at the junior high school was not returned by principal Chelamia Quintana.
Archuleta said Monday the junior high school started the school year with 23 seventh grade science books and 18 eighth grade science books. There are 50 eighth grade science students. These 2005 edition books were donated by McCurdy Mission at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year.
The school received 55 science books last week for each grade at a cost of $81 per book, which are 2013 editions, Archuleta said. The books were paid for with $27,000 in state funding.
The two science teachers at McCurdy Charter School did not respond to emails asking for their accounting of textbooks in their classrooms.
Group members also cited many substitute teachers showing movies during class or having children play games.
Parents have lost faith in the school and the school’s process for addressing problems, Merrifield said.
“We want to be a solution to these things,” he said.
The group also took issue with the Board composition, specifically how it was initially chosen and repopulates itself.
“We’ve gone through your bylaws and followed them,” Merrifield said. “Myself and some others submitted paperwork for two very qualified candidates in January and haven’t heard anything.”
Board Vice Chairperson Crystal Espinoza acknowledged receiving the applications and forwarding them to Board Chair Debra Anderson.
“I have those,” Anderson said. “That’s my bad.”
Merrifield took her to task on that.
“The communication from the top down, it’s not there,” he said. “No disrespect to you Janette (Archuleta) but there’s a petition to recall the superintendent.”
The mission statement talks about academic excellence and it’s not there, Merrifield said.
Anderson said she had read the presented document in detail.
“You have some real concerns here,” she said. “This is not the forum to address them. There is a process to follow.”
Merrifield said parents have no faith in that process.
Before the meeting, he said the group had gone through the complaint process, peppered with many ignored phone calls, emails and stalled or postponed meetings.
“We’re not stopping here (at the Board meeting),” Merrifield said before the meeting. “We’ll move on up to the state level and let them know what’s going on at our school.”
Anderson tried to push off the decisions to create several policies onto Archuleta, but Merrifield went back to the bylaws.
“You have the power to get involved and give direction,” he said. “I understand you made the decision as to who runs the school and you can change that.”
Anderson retreated to forming a subcommittee for the School Advisory Committee to address the group’s concerns.
Other items discussed during the meeting included dual credit courses being taken by 28 McCurdy Charter School students. Most of the students are taking courses at Northern New Mexico College, a minority at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos.
School counselor Dolores Salazar said that was because Northern sent a recruiter prepared to sign students to the courses.
Deanna Gomez, representing the state in the School’s ongoing financial concerns, presented the financial report for February.
“We’re current on paying bills as they come,” she said. “We are waiting for some cash flow.”
The February financial statement does not account for expenses but shows year-to-date revenue of $3.1 million and expenses of $2.8 million. Taking into account the negative balance of $188,850 the school had June 30, 2013, it currently has $37,487 in its bank account.