. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

An artist’s rendering depicts the new APS Administration Building. Construction of the structure, which will be located at the former site of the AHS Natatorium, is pending. (Courtesy Photo)

An artist’s rendering depicts the new APS Administration Building. Construction of the structure, which will be located at the former site of the AHS Natatorium, is pending. (Courtesy Photo)

The Artesia Public Schools Board of Education approved a proclamation and resolution last week to go out to voters Feb. 2, 2016, for the renewal of the HB33 Mill Levy.

The mill levy would continue at its current rate of $5 per $1,000 of taxable valuation for the district.

“The levy will not increase taxes,” Dr. Crit Caton, Artesia Public Schools superintendent, said. “It is a continuation of the current taxes that have been in effect for more than 30 years.”

The mill levy monies are used throughout the district for such actions as repairs and adding technology to the classrooms. The board also received a construction update from the Dekker, Perich, Sabatini architectural firm on the current status of the new APS Administration Building.

The building will be constructed on Bulldog Boulevard at the former site of the Artesia High School Natatorium. Caton had requested in September the firm slow down the project and reevaluate where costs could be minimized. The firm reported to the board that, without sacrificing quality, they had modified several areas of the materials that will be used during construction and completion of the building as well as cut back on additional landscaping, saving the project an estimated $603,216.75.

The firm also received a request from board members Carolyn Shearman and Jeff Bowman for an operational cost analysis of the new building versus the current building and its annexes. The firm reported an estimated cost per square foot of the new building to be $3.95 versus the current building’s operational cost of $6.28 per square foot, equaling a $65,615-per-year increase in operational costs for more than three times the existing square footage the staff currently occupies.

The new project is scheduled to have construction documentation complete in February 2016. Advertising for RFP will be done in March, and the building’s completion is slated for July 2017, provided the board approves the final project.

In other business, John Ross Null, assistant superintendent of personnel, and Danny Parker, assistant superintendent of instruction and federal programs, reported to the board the results of the 2015 PARCC assessment.

The PARCC is the most controversial of the standardized tests and is currently required by the Public Education Department. It is the test many students, parents and teachers in the nation and locally opposed, and some refused to even take.

“Our students didn’t all of a sudden get worse,” New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said of the results. “Our teacher’s aren’t teaching worse. We said, ‘You know what, we are going to raise our expectations.’

“We’re making our high school diploma more meaningful.”

The initial results show New Mexico high school students are not where they need to be in math and English.

In Algebra II, only about 17 percent of students in the state are proficient and fewer than 1 percent exceeded standards. In English and language arts, about 45 percent of high school juniors met or exceeded expectations with only 27 percent of freshmen meeting that mark.

In the APS, more than 19 percent are proficient in Algebra II with fewer than 1 percent exceeding. Thirty-nine percent of juniors met or exceeded English language arts along with 28 percent of freshmen.

Parker and Null reported APS students in grades 3-11 scored above state averages in all testing categories except sixth- and 10th-grade English language arts. On the sixth-grade level, the state average is 53.9 and APS was at 52.7. On the 10thgrade level, the state average is 54 with APS at 51.5.

Individual student results of the PARCC should be available to parents by late this month or early December, according to APS personnel.

Null also reported to the board that the Public Education Department’s recent audit of Artesia’s Special Education Department stated the department meets requirements in all 15 categories. Null commended Cody Hanagan, head of the department, and her staff for the good report.

Assistant Superintendent of Operations Thad Phipps received the board’s approval to dispose of the old chillers from Bulldog Pit and the AHS Auditorium as well as permission to purchase a Valcom Intercom System for AHS at a cost of $186,619, which would be funded by HB33 monies.

The new intercom system will upgrade the high school’s antiquated system and will include all AHS buildings east of Bulldog Boulevard with a functioning intercom and panic system.

Caton then reported to the board that the capital outlay request this year was $417,000 to upgrade fire alarms at Central, Hermosa and Yucca Elementaries and Zia Intermediate. He also reported he had received some interest from a local real estate agent in purchasing the property belonging to APS south of Central Elementary, and that he would entertain an option to sell, as the property is not big enough to use as a parking lot.

Caton also said the HVAC systems at Bulldog Pit and the AHS Auditorium are complete, the canopy at Zia has been set back a few weeks and will cost $32,000 to remedy, the AHS vestibule is on track to be constructed in July 2016, and a light pole at Bulldog Bowl that had malfunctioned the week of the Oct. 9 football game is now repaired.

Caton also reported the 40-day enrollment for APS is up 74 students from last year, meaning that “even with the decline in the current economy, Artesia is still seeing growth, and we are encouraged by that.” Caton said APS will receive growth money from the state for the increase in students.

Caton began Monday’s meeting by reading SUCCESSory notes, which had been submitted by students as part of his new initiative to “shine a bright light on our schools in the face of all the negatives.”

“I thank our teachers, I thank our staff, but most importantly, I thank our kids,” he said.

SUCCESSory notes are submitted by students in the Artesia Public Schools as words of encouragement and thanks to teachers, principals, administrators, etc., who have been a positive role model for them and made a difference in their educational experiences. They are turned in to the principals and disseminated to the appropriate recipient. The initiative stems from a resolution passed in September by the board proclaiming APS as a “National Public Schools That Work” district.

Caton announced plans to begin each meeting of the board with a reading of a few of the notes submitted as a way of “giving us some little positives.”