This column is in regards to the recent annual job performance evaluation of the superintendent of the Central Consolidated School District, CCSD, conducted by the Board of Education on March 17. This job evaluation resulted in a board vote of 3 to 2 in favor of extending the contract of Mr. Don Levinski through July 2017 and with a salary increase from $110,000 to $125,000. The three "yes votes" were cast by President Lupita White, Vice President Matthew Tso and, Secretary Christina Aspass, and, the two "no votes" were cast by Mr. Randy Manning and myself.

Since that time I have been approached by parents, community members, CCSD employees and my constituents, requesting details of the reasons for my "No Vote" in that they also were in opposition to the contract extension and salary increase. Based on these inquiries, as an elected official it is my duty to provide my reasons for the "no vote" as follows.

• A major job requirement of Superintendent Levinski is for the retention and recruitment of qualified certified educators in ensuring the provision of effective and quality educational services for CCSD students. Since the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, the CCSD web site has documented 27 to 33 teacher vacancies at any given time. On November 20, there were 29 teacher vacancies of which nine were for high school, eight for middle school, and, 12 elementary school. For the same date Aztec schools showed two teacher vacancies, Bloomfield showed two, and, Farmington had 10 teacher vacancies. On December 17, CCSD had 30 teacher vacancies with eight high school, 10 middle school, and 12 elementary teacher vacancies. On January 30, CCSD needed 31 teachers that included eight high school, eight middle school and 15 elementary teachers. As of March 15, CCSD had 32 teacher vacancies, consisting of 10 high school, five middle school and 17 elementary teachers. On the same date, Aztec, Bloomfield, and Farmington schools showed no teacher vacancies.

To put this in perspective, at the high school and middle school level a teacher vacancy results in having an average of 125 students being taught on a daily basis by a substitute, and 30 students at the elementary level. In applying this to the teacher vacancies previously cited on the CCSD web site, for December 17 of 30 vacancies, with eight high school vacancies it would equate to 8x125=1,000 High school students, 10 middle school vacancies of 10x125=1,250 middle school students, and 12 elementary vacancies of 12x30=360 elementary school students. This totals 2,610 CCSD students were being taught by substitutes and with a little over 6,000 students in CCSD, it results in about 43.5 percent of the student population. With teacher vacancies of 27 to 33 during the school year, approximately 40 percent to 45 percent of CCSD students were being taught by substitutes at any given time. Due to the failure of the superintendent and his administration to retain and recruit certified teachers, throughout the school year, it is a major disservice to the students, parents, and community of providing a sub-standard educational service. Mr. Levinski points out as one of his achievements the restructuring of the teacher salary scale to become competitive with other school districts, but still could not attract much needed teachers. It can be surmised that there exist a much deeper problem within CCSD that has resulted in failure to retain and recruit teachers.

• The superintendent has not been "open and honest" with the school board, in that, he submitted a letter on CCSD letterhead, without board notification and approval to state Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage dated February 7. In this letter he states "The majority of the School district Board supports the Governor's Budget on State Education." This letter was in regards to House Bill # 3 for "Below the Line" funding that was contained in an appropriation bill for public education. In his letter he requests Rep. Clahchischilliage to support this education bill based on such political support by the CCSD Board.

Mr. Levinski, with his letter, misrepresented and oversteps the authority of the CCSD School Board. Also, he "misled" Rep. Clahchischilliage with his untrue statement regarding board support of HB#3. Also, he "misled" state Rep. Sandra Jeff who read Mr. Lewinski's letter on the floor of the House of Representatives during debate of this bill.

It should also be noted that board Vice President Matthew Tso submitted a similar letter to Rep. Clahchischilliage dated February 6 on CCSD letterhead. Mr. Tso did not receive board authorization by official action to speak in behalf of the board in violation of Policy #150; Code of Ethics for School Board Members. He also made the same false statement that the CCSD Board was in support of HB#3. Mr. Tso's disingenuous letter was also read by Rep. Jeff on the House floor. (Note: There are no CCSD Board minutes reflecting approval of the letters of Mr. Levinski and Mr. Tso)

• With the CCSD student population being over 90 percent of Navajo students, it would be assumed that the Navajo bi-Lingual and Immersion Programs would be of priority. Especially when research has proven that such programs result in academic growth for Native American students.

In 2007 the CCSD Board established a 20-year Navajo language revitalization plan with an oversight committee of community members, parents, educators, and, administrators. When Mr. Levinski became superintendent, he, without notification to the board and community members, disbanded this committee. Since 2011, Mr. Levinski has had a turnover of three coordinators and now has a director to oversee this program. To date there is not a comprehensive Navajo and culture curriculum and no compiled data to analyze the current status of such educational services. This very concerning situation exists despite CCSD receiving millions of dollars from Johnson O-Mulley, Title 7 and Impact Aide from the federal government.

• The "end product "of any school district is the graduation rate of students, which is the final indicator of the effectiveness of the provision of educational services for our students, parents, and, the community. A major job responsibility of the superintendent is to maintain a high percentage of the graduation rate from year to year. In 2012, the CCSD graduation rate was 71.7 percent, to which Mr. Levinski used to no end as resulting from his educational leadership, in comparing CCSD to other school districts in the Four Corners area. According to a recent New Mexico Public Education report, the graduation rate for 2013 dropped to 65 percent, which is a decrease of 6.7 percent and placed CCSD last on the list of the Four Corners area school districts, which includes Gallup schools.

The above four areas of major deficiencies are obviously serious acts of misconduct and job performance by Mr. Levinski, that do not warrant a contract extension and salary increase. Many CCSD employees have been terminated or discharged for far less violations than that of the superintendent. There are other documented misconduct and poor job performance that need to surface through a comprehensive external investigation of all pertinent parties by the New Mexico Public Education Department, New Mexico Office of the Attorney General and or the Northern Navajo Agency Council that represent the chapters located in the CCSD. Any response to this letter from Mr. Levinski is expected to be the usual "spinning" of details and facts to justify such deficiencies and may include personal verbal attacks for which he has set precedence with certain board members.

 

Hoskie Benally Jr. is a CCSD Board Member in Shiprock, New Mexico.