The New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) is proposing changes to the public-school calendars and local superintendents are taking notice.

The changes include an extension of school days to 180 total days from the current 1,140-hour requirements stated in statute and a requirement of at least 50 percent of school weeks having five instructional days. This new calendar proposal comes on the heels of HB 130 that was signed into a bill on March 17 of this year. Originally it had required days and according to Haven and Hendrix, legislators helped by pushing for hours instead of day requirements because of the negative impact it would have on four-day schools.

“This would essentially do away with four-day week districts,” said Ron Hendrix, Superintendent of Socorro School District.

Superintendent Dr. Glenn Haven of Magdalena Schools and Hendrix are both opposed to the amendment and have been communicating with other superintendents in New Mexico about the potential impact it would have on their schools.

Hendrix said that he wrote letters to all the legislators last week because when he talked to Dr. Arsenio Romero, Secretary of the Public Education department about the new rules at a central superintendent’s co-op meeting in Albuquerque, he didn’t feel like Romero was advocating for districts in New Mexico that have four-day weeks.
“He kept telling me that this is what the legislators want. It’s a lie, it’s not what they want,” Hendrix said. “Honestly, they are trying to do this as quietly as possible because they know they are going behind the backs of legislators and they are trying to get this pushed through, that’s why I wrote a letter to all the legislators last week and they didn’t know about it, this was all news to them.”

In the email to legislators Hendrix wrote in defense of the four-day school performance saying that the New Mexico Vistas data recently published by PED showed that 85 percent of 4-day schools are performing at or above the standard PED compared to 74 percent of the five-day week districts performing at or above. He shared that having a four-day week allowed his district to be fully staffed for the first time in years and get off the PED “naughty list”.

“I urge the New Mexico Public Education Department to consider the diversity of school districts across the state and allow for flexibility in the number of mandated school days. A one size fits all approach may inadvertently harm the very education experience we are striving to improve,” Hendrix wrote in his letter.

Haven said he agrees with Hendrix that the new rules would have a negative impact on the four-day school district and said that it could send them backwards.
“We had a former secretary who tried to do the same thing and step beyond their authority, and now this one is doing the same thing,” Haven said. “I’m hopeful that our legislators will come through for us and shoot this down.”

Haven said that the changes would hurt the students and staff because they use Fridays for sports, extracurricular activities and professional development. The sports teams often travel far for games, and it would be a lot for students to have an extra day of school. Plus, he said that the required 180 days would add at least a month of school to their calendar.

“I don’t quite understand what the push is? I guess schools are being penalized for not being able to meet certain criteria by New Mexico PED.” Haven said. “We worked really hard and diligently to schedule a school calendar that would meet the needs of our students and as you know, Magdalena has been a four-day school for quite a long time.”

A public hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday Dec. 18 in the Mabry Hall in the Jerry Apodaca Education Building, 300 Don Gasper Avenue in Santa Fe. Both Dr. Haven and Hendrix plan on attending.

“They have four or five different rules they are trying to institute, and they are giving only one hour and everyone is limited to three minutes,” Hendrix said. “We gave out the public comment link to people and other districts have been doing that too and it went from no comments at all to two hundred plus the last time I looked.”

He noted that the comments hadn’t been updated since last week and suspects they are being inundated with comments against the proposal. Public comment is currently open until Dec. 18 at 5 p.m., those interested need to email: [email protected] and mention ‘6.10.5 NMAC School Calendar Requirements.