An example of tax dollars well spent

By Mike Curran

White Mountain Elementary Principal Carol Ann Gutierrez (Photo by Mike Curran)

RUIDOSO – As we meander through life trying our best to negotiate the vagaries and urgencies of everyday living, we sometimes do not have the time or attention span to focus on anything but that which is right before us and must be resolved posthaste – or at least in the very near future.

Many days, we are oblivious to what is happening in some foreign hotspot, or for that matter, what is transpiring in the world right around us. Our aims are focused on succeeding at some endeavor or overcoming potential problems before they get out of hand.

Occasionally, we pick up some periodical, read the news online or listen to a nightly newscast where the latest warplane is experiencing a huge cost overrun, needless money is being spent on a lavish new federal or state headquarters’ building, or an Amtrak train is derailed on its maiden run. We wonder if our hard-earned tax dollars are being judiciously spent. That’s only natural.

There is however, a new federal program that is happening right here in the mountain village of Ruidoso. It involves bettering the lives of community children. This particular curriculum is something that has never been done here before. People who experience it, firsthand or otherwise, will undoubtedly gain a newfound respect for our current public school systems.

In July 2017, White Mountain Elementary (grades 3 through 5 with a student enrollment of 504 students) and Sierra Vista Primary (grades 1 and 2 with a student enrollment of 310 students) were awarded a $4 million, four-year grant from the federally funded SIG (School Improvement Grant) program. Under the SIG Leadership Innovation model the schools must show how they plan to ensure strong leadership (among other criteria) in both institutions.

In Article 11 the SIG guidelines state that the participating schools must create and implement a plan to provide ongoing mechanisms – both academic and non-academic – for family and community engagement.

From there a specific plan was put together by Associate Supervisor Jason Edmister, White Mountain Elementary (WME) Principal Carol Ann Gutierrez and others to set up an afternoon school program for interested children and parents. That plan has now been implanted and commenced on Jan. 8, and continued the following day. On day one, 164 students attended, with 173 taking part the following day. Currently, this after school program will take place Monday, Tuesday and/or Thursday immediately after school (3:15 p.m.) As of now there are about 15 teachers involved. The children may be picked up at 4:30 p.m. at WME. There are also two buses to transport students home.

During the school day, breakfast and lunch are provided. Snacks will be served all at no cost to the students – through the National School Lunch Program. There will be three six-week sessions available – from Jan. 8 to May 3 – and the offerings will change. Children may get extra tutoring. Twelve classes will be presented each session such as; American Sign Language; drawing and painting; Lego Robotics; Battle of the Books, et al. Parents in the community may also suggest a class and teach it.

“We have started successfully, but have only stuck a toe in the water,” Gutierrez said.

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