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QISD Board Approves 150-day Calendarfor 2024-25 Despite State Overhaul


Questa Independent School District (QISD) tentatively approved a new calendar for the 2024-25 academic year comprising 150 days, or a 4-day school week, the same as the current schedule. However, the district will most likely not meet a state-mandated 15 percent test score increase and therefore be forced into a 180-day academic calendar.


The mandated overhaul is due to a bill that passed New Mexico’s 2023 legislative session, House Bill 130, sponsored by NM Representative Joy Garret (District 29), NM Representative Andres Romero (District 10), and NM Senator Mimi Stewart (District 17).


The mandated overhaul includes an exemption for districts that have achieved a 15 percent increase in test scores. According to QISD Superintendent John Maldonado only two districts in the state have achieved that threshold: Los Alamos Public Schools and East Mountain Charter School.


Read more about the education overhaul here:
https://nmeducation.org/new-mexico-public-education-overhauls-school-calendar-with-180-day-rule-allowing-exemptions/


Board Member Juan Cisernos made the motion to approve the 150-day calendar which was seconded by Board Vice-president Jose Lovato. They then went into further discussion on their options regarding the NM Public Education Department (PED).


“We’re required to submit two calendars, but I can submit just the one if that’s what you guys choose to do,” said Superintendent Maldonado. “PED said that the budget would not be approved without the secondary calendar.”


“Realistically, what would happen if every 4-day district approved a 150-day calendar right now?” asked Board Member Cisneros.


“What we received from PED is that they just won’t approve the budget,” replied the Superintendent.
“Would they do that for everybody,” asked Board Member Cisneros.


“So would they stop the district completely,” asked Vice-president Lovato. “They rather just not send kids to school?”


“They would just shut them all down,” Cisneros continued questioningly.


“That’s the threat [PED] has thrown to us at this point in time,” acknowledged the Superintendent.
“Call it,” said Cisneros brazenly with a smile.


“We can try it if that’s what you guys want to do,” said the Superintendent. “If [PED] throws it back at us and says this is what needs to be done, do we move forward with the 180-day calendar?”


“What does the budget reflect right now?” asked Vice-president Lovato.


“180 days,” answered the Superintendent. “The big costs would be your utility costs.”


“If we submit this [150-day calendar] and PED doesn’t kick it back, rather just suspends us and then says this is the calendar you’re going to go with, then we get a worse calendar that we don’t get to choose,” added Board Secretary Esequiel Romero.


“That’s a possibility,” said the Superintendent. “We’re tentatively approved for the 150 days but then, when test scores come out that’s when [PED] will come back and say go to [180 days] because you didn’t meet the requirements of your testing.”


“Just tell them we said no,” said Board Member Cisneros. “The thing is, everybody else is looking around for somebody to stand up.”


There is much discontent from the Board towards PED with sentiments around the idea that the state is exerting unnecessary control over local school boards. Back in 2019 PED took direct control over the QISD, citing allegations of unstable leadership and legal violations.


Read more on that history here:
https://www.krqe.com/news/new-mexico/ped-suspends-questa-school-board/


Board Member Cisneros stated that he personally would prefer a 5-day school week to a 4-day one but also acknowledged, “it’s obvious here that that is not what a majority of people in this district want and that is why they voted for us.”


“They didn’t stick us here to do whatever PED tells us to do.”


Superintendent Maldonado recommends submitting a secondary calendar as a backup option.


“It’s really a smokescreen,” said Board Member Cisneros referring to the mandated overhaul, “because the failure has been on [PED] for how many years. There is nothing actually changing by adding more days.”


“What worries me,” said Vice-president Lovato, “is [the added days] will just make the teachers burn out.”


“Not only burn out,” added the Superintendent, “but your attendance is not going to improve.”


The Superintendent also described the difficulty following the mandatory days requirement on top of the mandatory hours requirement saying it unnecessarily increases costs for schools as well as puts more pressure on parents shuttling their kids; it would be more logical to either have an hours requirement or a days requirement, not both.


“These conversations have been had, it’s just PED,” said Maldonado. “And I agree with [Board Secretary Romero] in that if we don’t do what they ask us to do then they’ll just tell us what to do.”


“Well, they’re not asking us anyway,” said Board Member Michael Cordova.


“There’s no right answer here at all,” said Vice-president Lovato regrettably. “I don’t think anyone really wins on this. Local control is next to nothing and, over the next five years, it’s probably going to be gone.”


“We already know what the answer is going to be,” said Board President Jason Rael. “I doubt we’ll be able to hit the 15 percent score mark. That’s almost impossible to do for a rural district. Either way we have to get the budget and we’re looking at the 180-day. If we tell [PED] that we don’t like it and we’ll go with ours,they’ll just come back at us, and shoot it down anyway, forcing us back to the 180-day.”


“Our goal with the budget has always been to bill to the worst case scenario,” said Vice-president Lovato.
“The worst thing that happens is [PED] pushes us to do whatever anyway,” said Board Member Cisneros. “It’s not even about the calendar, it’s about us doing what the people elected us to do. PED didn’t vote for me.”


The Board ultimately voted on their original motion for the 150-day calendar. The vote was 4-1 with Board Secretary Romero dissenting.

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