East superintendent needs support

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After watching my father who was a N.M. superintendent of schools for over 30 years including nine in West Las Vegas and having worked with troubled school districts around the country, I came to the realization that it takes the community, teachers, the school board and superintendent working in tandem to put into place sound policies that will stabilize the district and improve the quality of education.

The East Las Vegas School District, like many in New Mexico, faces many challenges; namely: increasingly more expensive educational programs, coping with new curricular standards and a new state-wide evaluation system, a drop in enrollment, and funding that either has decreased or remained stagnant.

Complicating this further for Las Vegas, it appears that ELV School Superintendent, Sheryl McNellis-Martinez has been expected to find immediate solutions to management and longstanding financial problems, none of which she caused but rather inherited from past administrative actions dating back many years.

It would be simple to find fault when all challenges are not overcome immediately and problems solved instantly. Too often, in their impatience, school boards will impede progress by replacing their Superintendent before he or she has had sufficient time to work out budgetary or curricular problems. This would be a terrible mistake.

As Thomas E. Glass of the University of Memphis has found: “Chronic superintendent turnover, or ‘churn,’ is indicative of a board’s inability to function effectively. And, we know that the effects of bringing a new superintendent on board every few years can be disastrous. Not only does it confuse and discourage district staff, it also conjures up a public image of a district in turmoil…. Superintendent turnover usually derails ongoing reform initiatives — initiatives that generally take four to five years to take effect and bring about results.” (Thomas E. Glass, Effective Superintendents, Effective Boards — Finding the Right Fit. University of Memphis, Education Committee of the States, July, 2001)

What the ELV superintendent has undertaken is a task of gigantic proportions. From what I understand from news articles and in talking with friends who live in Las Vegas and former colleagues at Highlands University, Ms. McNellis-Martinez is actually accomplishing what is required of her in this unenviable position. Furthermore, it appears she is doing it quite well, considering the circumstances.

Growing up in Las Vegas and only recently retiring from Highlands University, I know firsthand of the instability that occurs within a school district if and when school board members quarrel among themselves and make administrative changes in too hasty a manner.

The ELV School District will continue to progress as long as there is continued administrative stability, a focus on long-term goals, and a cooperative spirit among school board members, the schools’ administrative team, teachers, and the community.

I ask all involved to renew their trust in Supt. McNellis-Martinez’ and provide her the time and support she needs to  work through the labyrinth of repairing the financial structure of the District while at that same time working to improve the quality of education students receive.

Phillip C. Gonzales, Ed.D.
Johnson City, Tennessee