Christina Werenko, principal, Placitas Elementary School
New principals ready to start the school year
Placitas Elementary School has a new principal this year.
Christina Werenko took over the position in July after having worked in larger schools and classrooms with Albuquerque Public Schools. In Placitas she will supervise 160 students in ten classes. She has worked as an assistant principal and taught where student populations numbered close to eight hundred. Werenko said she has long envisioned herself as the principal of a small community school.
The biggest challenge of her new job, Werenko said, will be the balancing act of meeting the needs of the community while being accountable to district and state requirements. Werenko said it also would be hard not to want to be involved with everything that goes on in the small school. "This is such a close-knit community, " she said. "Everyone who came and visited over the summer made me feel very welcome."
Identifying community resources for alternative funding is an area in which Werenko is seeking support. "Books are expensive," she explained. " And we're a small school with a fairly small budget." Werenko hopes the community will step forward to help stock a new resource room to support the school's literacy program.
"I think Chris will bring an enormous amount of vitality to the school, " said Gary Dwyer, superintendent of Bernalillo Public Schools. "Her real strength is in diversity and I believe that will she will work well in the community."
At Bernalillo High School, Sharon Fox was hired as principal in March and now has begun her first full year. She had served as the school's assistant principal for four years. "Sharon will bring structure, creativity, and an integration of high standards to the high school," said Dwyer. "With her in charge, students will have a safe and stable learning environment."
Among Fox's previous accomplishments at the high school was starting the career academy, which includes classes in computer graphics, culinary arts, drafting, and welding. Last year she successfully wrote grant proposals to fund school projects, one of which was a micro-technology grant from Sandia Laboratories.
"Education is my passion," said Fox. "Everything of value in my life has come through additional education. It has allowed me to work where I choose." She is currently at work on her doctorate with an emphasis on educational leadership and organizational development. Fox says that an individual can jump out of education anytime but they can also jump back in.
The high school also has hired Rudy Galindo as assistant principal. Galindo has served as the school district's band director since 1998. He holds a master's degree and earned his administrative license from New Mexico Highlands University. He has taught in Albuquerque, Clovis, and Covina, California. "He brings a rich history of music and success to the job," said Fox.
In other school district news, several construction projects have been completed or are nearing completion. Bernalillo Middle School is in the third and final phase of several years of construction and landscaping projects. A new multipurpose building will be used as a gymnasium and for other school functions. The front of the school has undergone improvements to the landscaping, facade, and parking lot. Circular stone planters have been added outside the front door and new sod has been laid.
At Algodones Elementary, major improvements to the parking lot will make for safer traffic patterns. An access road has been added so that several home owners in the area will no longer need to drive through the school parking lot. A village side street now connects directly to the highway in front of the school and a de-acceleration lane coming off of the highway will make it easier for drivers to enter the school.
At Roosevelt Elementary, a new concrete slab was poured to fix the eroded floor in the south corridor. The new slab was poured late in July and floor tiling was to be completed after Labor Day. New tiling and carpeting has been installed in about half of the school's classrooms.
Special-election amendments affect public-education funding
—Jack E. Thomas
Sandoval County Commission
Voters across New Mexico in a few weeks will decide on two proposed amendments to the state constitution that will determine the ways our education system is managed and funded well into the future.
Make a difference in your school system. Vote in the special election on Tuesday, September 23. Or, take advantage of the county's absentee and early voting that is now underway.
To make the process more convenient, Sandoval County is conducting early and absentee voting through September 20 at both the county courthouse in Bernalillo and, beginning September 6, at an alternate voting location at Rio Rancho's Meadowlark Senior Center.
Polls are open in the county courthouse from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and on Saturday, September 20. Polls also are open at the Meadowlark Center from noon to 8:00 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays and from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on each of the three Saturdays through September 20.
On Election Day, September 23, polls will be open throughout Sandoval County from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. For more information on how or where to vote, or to request an application for absentee voting by mail, call the County's Bureau of Elections, 867-7577.
The 2003 New Mexico Legislature approved placing the two proposed constitutional amendments before the voters. The issues are complex and have compelling arguments, both pro and con.
Information about the proposed amendments is available from the state legislature's Web site, http://legis.state.nm.us, or the secretary of state's bureau of elections site, http://www.sos.state.nm.us/Election/ElectionInfo.htm. In addition, the New Mexico League of Women Voters, http://lwvnm.org/, has prepared a flyer summarizing both sides of the arguments.
The first proposed amendment would change the state constitution to create a public-education department headed by a cabinet-level secretary. Once appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state senate, the public-education secretary would have administrative and regulatory authority, including all functions relating to distribution of school funds.
The proposal also would create a public education commission. The current fifteen members of the state board of education would serve on the new commission until their present terms expire. After that, the commission would consist of ten members elected to serve staggered four-year terms.
The second proposed amendment would change the constitution to allow increasing the amount of money that can be distributed each year from the state's permanent fund, primarily for education purposes.
The amendment would increase the amount distributed from the permanent fund from the present cap of 4.7 to a new ceiling of five percent of the average of the fund's year-end market values for the preceding five years. The distribution cap would go to 5.8 percent for fiscal years 2005 through 2012 and, be reduced to 5.5 percent for fiscal years 2013 through 2016, after which it would be return to the five percent level.
New Mexico's permanent fund currently is valued at over $6 billion. The amendment would require that the additional distributions be stopped if the five-year average balance of the fund falls below $5.8 billion. Additionally, it allows the legislature, by a three-fifths vote, to suspend the payment of the additional distributions.
Both issues are important to all residents, and voting is an obligation and a right under our democratic government. If you doubt the importance of just one individual vote, look no further than the past general election when Sandoval County voters determined the winners in several close elections by only handfuls of votes.
Questions or comments for Commissioner Thomas may be mailed to him in care of Sandoval County Administrative Offices, P.O. Box 40, Bernalillo 87004.
Mother's Day Out provides daycare
Mother's Day Out is a nondenominational cooperative daycare program for children from eighteen months old to prekindergarten. It is located at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church. A typical day, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., includes inside instruction, storytelling, and art projects, as well as outside play in the courtyard playground. Each child is allowed to attend a maximum of two days a week, Mondays to Thursday. To fulfill the co-op requirement, parents are required to assist with childcare approximately one day every eight weeks. To inquire about openings for the fall, call Debbie Steuber at 867-5718.
Optimists jump into fund-raising and supporting kids
The Optimist Club jumps into September with their Junior Optimist Club, prekindergarten, literacy programs, and calendar sales.
Now revamped, the calendars continue to be pocket-sized, but will have single advertisers, listings of all community groups, and double-page displays of each month, The calendars are being sold until September 30 to advertisers who for $100 will receive fifty calendars with only their own ad. The beautiful landscape cover art was donated by Arturo Antonio Chavez. For further information about the calendar sales, please contact Penelope Cisneros at 867-9635.
Starting in September, Placitas Prekindergarten begins its second year of teaching three- four-, and five-year-olds. This nonprofit, independent school will help children prepare for kindergarten. Children participate full and part-time. Tuition scholarships are available. Last year’s favorite activities were story time, singing, exploring, and developing language skills. For further information, please contact Snow Moore Watson at 867-2047.
Nature walks, crafts, bowling, and the Always Buckle Up Your Children program are among the activities planned for this year’s Junior Optimists at Placitas Elementary School, who will meet after school on Wednesdays from 2:50 to 3:50 p.m., starting Septembver 10.
Preregistration materials will go home with PES students September 3. Registration materials must be turned in to the PES office by September 9. This year’s twenty-five junior club members will be selected on a first come, first serve basis, with last year’s Junior Optimists filling the first spots.
Club membership also is available to elementary-age children not attending PES. Registration materials may be picked up at the PES office or from Nancy Hawks, junior club sponsor, at 771-4931.
Until now, sponsoring the Reading with Kasey program has been the Optimists’ biggest literacy success. Reading coordinator Terri Smith brought us another good idea: the Junior Optimists recorded stories and assembled book-and-cassette packages so other students could listen to the stories as they read along. The goal is to improve word-identification skills. Terri will initiate the program at Algodones Elementary School.
The OCdeS new-officer Installation Banquet (potluck) will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 28, at the San Antonio Community Center. Everyone is welcome.
A busy season included summer camp, the Cooking with Kids Pampered Chef fund-raiser for the prekindergarten, and partnering with Las Placitas Presbyterian Church in the Relay for Life, where the combined YO team contributed over $800. LPPC’s Lisa Messenger worked with Optimist president Elaine Sullivan to launch the collaboration. Former club president Nancy Hawks won the Nights at Tamaya grand prize.
You are invited to join the club on the first and third Mondays of the month at 7:00 p.m. at the Placitas Mission San Antonio Community Center on Paseo de San Antonio. For additional details, please contact Elaine Sullivan at 771-1171.