Naschitti — The Central Consolidated School District and Gallup-McKinley County Schools failed to reach an agreement on providing bus service for students living in Naschitti.

Members from both school boards met for more than 2 hours Tuesday at Naschitti Elementary to discuss the districts' proposed transportation boundary agreements.

The New Mexico Public Education Department instructed both parties to meet and develop a compromise after CCSD filed a complaint against Gallup-McKinley for operating buses from Tohatchi into Naschitti, which is 6 miles north of the McKinley/San Juan County line.

Gallup-McKinley started its bus service Sept. 3 after district officials and school board members heard from concerned parents.

Gallup-McKinley County Schools board Vice President Kevin Mitchell and board President Bruce Tempest, from left, listen to Superintendent Frank Chiapetti
Gallup-McKinley County Schools board Vice President Kevin Mitchell and board President Bruce Tempest, from left, listen to Superintendent Frank Chiapetti read the district s proposed agreement for bus transportation in special meeting Tuesday in Naschitti. The board met with the Central Consolidated School District board to resolve a dispute over providing transportation for Naschitti students. (Noel Smith / The Daily Times)

CCSD filed its complaint with the state public education department shortly after the first Gallup-McKinley bus entered the county. But Gallup-McKinley stopped the bus service Sept. 16 after a joint meeting in Window Rock.

At Tuesday's meeting, CCSD presented a proposal calling for Gallup-McKinley to have its buses stop at the county line, which it has done in the past. That proposal would block the district from reimbursing mileage for parents to deliver their students to and from the bus stop.

Gallup-McKinley cannot leave students at the county line without a parent or guardian present, and the district must report to CCSD the names, addresses and telephone numbers of Naschitti students who are riding buses.

Gallup-McKinley submitted its proposed transportation agreement to the CCSD board last month.

Under that proposal, Gallup-McKinley would transport students currently enrolled in the district's schools to and from the county line and provide mileage reimbursement for those parents.

CCSD voted on both proposals but did not reach a majority vote to accept either one.

Instead, the Gallup-McKinley offer received mixed responses from CCSD board members, with board vice president Matthew Tso stating that Gallup-McKinley actions are violating state law for transportation agreements and mileage reimbursements.

Board member Randy Manning said Gallup-McKinley buses are legally allowed to the county line and the issue was mileage reimbursement.

He added that CCSD needs to find out why Naschitti students prefer attending schools in Tohatchi.

Gallup-McKinley Superintendent Frank Chiapetti maintained the district's stance that student safety was key and that the parties have to reach an agreement or the state public education department would step in.

Calls for the school boards to reach an agreement were repeated by state Rep. Sandra Jeff, D-McKinley and San Juan. Olin Kieyoomia, president of the District 14 Council, which includes Naschitti Chapter, urged Gallup-McKinley to extend its bus routes into the county.

"We shouldn't struggle so hard like now to come to an agreement. It should be easy for our Navajo kids to acquire an education where he or she chooses to be," Kieyoomia said.

Since a compromise was not reached, the matter now goes to the state Public Education Department for review and decision, according to CCSD board president Lupita White.

CCSD board members also attempted to discuss and approve a memorandum of understanding between the districts proposing to bus students from Crystal to Navajo, which has been operating under an informal agreement between the two entities.

Gallup-McKinley board vice president Kevin Mitchell said Gallup would not talk about that memorandum because it was not listed on their agenda.

Gallup-McKinley board president Bruce Tempest said the matter could be discussed at a later date.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.