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East to delay accreditation

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By Mercy Lopez

Las Vegas City Schools had been preparing for a district-wide accreditation for more than a year, but on Thursday the district’s leader announced that she is pulling the plug on that effort for now.

Superintendent Sheryl McNellis-Martinez told the board she doesn’t believe the district is prepared to undergo the accreditation process this fall.

Some board members questioned McNellis-Martinez about the decision, but in the end the board approved a motion to hold off on the accreditation. The motion passed on a split vote, with Gabe Lucero an Luis Ortiz voting against it. The move will allow the district an additional year to prepare for accreditation.

Robertson High School will, however, move forward with its required external review that is scheduled for the spring.

McNellis-Martinez and board President Gloria Lovato Pacheco are sending a letter of withdrawal to AdvanceED New Mexico Director Priscilla Fernandez.

“We believe that in order for us to meet the standards set forth in the accreditation process, additional time is needed,” the letter states. “By affording us this opportunity, we will focus on strengthening the systems at each individual school site, in preparation to meet the criteria set forth by AdvancED.”

Board Vice President Ernesto Salazar questioned McNellis-Martinez on reasons for the delay, as district officials had continuously informed the board that the district was on track with the accreditation process.

“We have been hearing about this for a year that we were on track and had the right people in place…,” Salazar said. “I don’t understand how we got from last year to this year, and now we are looking to cancel this … I don’t know how we got disconnected.”

McNellis-Martinez said she cannot guarantee that all staff and board members will be able to completely and accurately articulate to the accreditation team such things as the district’s goals.

McNellis-Martinez said she realized the accreditation process needed to be delayed during an administrative team meeting held this summer. The superintendent said that under the original plan, the district would have had to submit required documentation in September, and a visit by the accreditation team was to have taken place in October.

”During the visit, they would ask questions on the (operation) of our processes and how we attend to any concerns that come up,” McNellis-Martinez said. “It was discussed among the administrators that we did not feel confident at this point that every stakeholder at every level can articulate the processes by which we have implemented school reform.”

She added that Fernandez also recommended to the district that it hold off a year.

“A year will ensure that the processes are articulated to all our stakeholders, so that when we do come to accreditation, it is not a dog-and-pony show and that we understand the common language the accreditation agency will be using in their interviews for us.”

She said Robertson High School is ready for its mandatory accreditation and has been working on it for a year.

“Our decision is based on we would rather take one more year and be fully prepared than go into this at this point and have the possibility of not passing,” McNellis-Martinez told the board.

Ortiz inquired about repercussions associated with delaying the accreditation. McNellis-Martinez said there would be no repercussions since the accreditation is voluntary for all sites except Robertson High School.

“People need to be able to articulate. We have been doing this the whole time. People need to understand there is a process that has been implemented and that is what we use to make decisions …,” McNellis-Martinez said. “It is just not articulated and people would not be able to express that back. We don’t want to take a chance of failing because of that.”

The school district’s sites, including Memorial Middle School, Paul D. Henry Elementary, Los Niños Elementary, Legion Park Elementary, Sierra Vista Elementary, Mike Mateo Sena Elementary, and the Early Childhood Center site with the Las Vegas City School District will now undergo the accreditation process next school year.

“Our hope is that within the next couple of years, we can revisit the accreditation process for Las Vegas City School,” the district’s letter states.

In other action:

• The board discussed the possibility of outsourcing the district’s food service program. In a split vote, with Ortiz voting against, the board approved bids to purchase food and supplies for the food services program until December for the school year that starts today (Monday).

• The board received an update from JJ Griego on the 2011-12 audit

• Board members also turned down a roughly $25,000 change order for Franken Construction Company.