East wants consolidation vote

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Three board members say they favor unification

By Mercy Lopez

School district consolidation has been a hot issue for years. During a board meeting late last week, Las Vegas City Schools board member Luis Ortiz revealed a rough draft resolution that could potentially be approved by the boards of both the Las Vegas Schools and West Las Vegas Schools. If both boards approve the measure, the idea of consolidation of districts would be sent to the voters.

Ortiz brought up the measure for information, but the board took no action during Thursday evening’s meeting.

President Gloria Lovato- Pacheco, Ortiz and member Felix Alderete said they are in support of consolidation. Members Gabe Lucero and Ernesto Salazar did not attend the meeting.

Ortiz told the board he previously discussed the issue with Lucero, who asked Ortiz to draft a resolution that could potentially be passed by both boards.

“The idea behind it is to simply take this question to the voters,” Ortiz said.

The resolution states if the schools become consolidated, Las Vegas will have one administration and one board instead of the current two boards and two administrations. The plan is similar to the organization of both Albuquerque and Santa Fe Public Schools.

Ortiz said the diminishing population has affected graduating classes for years. Both schools had roughly 100 graduates this past year, compared to prior years,  when both Robertson High School and West Las Vegas High School each had roughly 200 graduates. Ortiz said consolidation would not mean both high schools would combine into one, but would fall under one district administration and board.

“We would face our problems together as one town,” Ortiz said.

He said the question could be on a ballot in 2014 or 2015, but he is unsure if that will come to fruition since both school boards would need to take action.

“Whether we do and do not believe in consolidation doesn’t matter because it really just needs to get to the voters … The resolution will respect the wishes of voting public,” Ortiz said.

“It is no  secret that I am pro consolidation,” Lovato Pacheco said.

Lovato-Pacheco told Ortiz she would work to have the question placed on the school board election ballot in February 2015, but she is unsure of the exact wording of the question.

“With the consolidation of schools we need to look at what the economic impact would be: Would it be positive or negative? We need to look at many things,” Lovato Pacheco said. “This district, for one, needs to have its finances in order. I don’t know what things West Las Vegas needs… It is just like every corporation in consolidation; everything needs to come together … It needs to be well thought out, and we keep students the focus of whatever it is we are going to do.”

She added that the matter would have to be addressed to two counties, both San Miguel and Mora as both school districts have students who attend from both counties.

Member Alderete thanked Ortiz for bringing the consolidation issue to the board as it is “long overdue.”

Alderete said he participated in a meeting several years ago to discuss consolidation.

“In that meeting it was obvious that there was pro and cons on the positions; it was almost 50/50. I think it is a good idea to take it to the electorate as all voices that choose to be heard will be heard in that fashion,” Alderete said.

He said that consolidation could take place only by legislative action or the action of both school boards. Alderete said the public would be concerned about having two high schools.

“Even with a unified school district, you can still have two high schools, and I think also we can do other things that neither school district can do right now,” Alderete said. “I think those that heard me when I ran for office know that I have been in favor of some unification of the two school districts — the administrative functions.”

It is unclear how many board members would sit on the board if consolidation of both school districts would take place.

Ortiz said the resolution is something for thought until the boards take action on what to do next.

“It wouldn’t change anything in the schools … Let’s just tackle our problems together, as one town, as one city, for the betterment — that’s for sure,” he said.

In other business, the board:

• Approved a budget adjustment request  that moved more than $12,000 from the supplies and materials line item to athletics.

The board is scheduled to meet Thursday evening to discuss the recently submitted 2011-12 audit completed by Griego Professional Services as well as other items, including the status of the district request for emergency supplemental funding from the state Public Education Department.