• Change law on reviewing school superintendents

    There has been plenty of hand wringing over the past several days as the taxpaying public searches in vain for answers why its popular school superintendent suddenly resigned.
    One of those taxpayers, Morrie Pongratz, rightly questioned the school board Tuesday night, saying that the public deserves to know what led to this situation.
    That would be the ideal situation but unfortunately, state law allows school boards to review superintendents behind closed doors, allowing board members to say whatever they choose in private and never having to reveal publically their individual opinions or thoughts on the superintendent’s performance.
    Oh, following the review, the board will release a milquetoast summary, which purposefully doesn’t capture individual criticisms or concerns and focuses instead on blanket, unattributed statements that rarely if ever give taxpayers a true assessment of what each board member truly thinks.
    To further complicate the issue, because that process occurs in secret, board members are then forbidden to discuss with taxpayers exactly what was said and by whom.

  • UNM-LA housing proposal not fair

    Editor: We believe it is appropriate to explain our position on the pending rezoning of the apartments owned by UNM-LA on 9th street. A more detailed version of this letter can be found at lamonitor.com.

  • Protecting kids isn't just about funding

    Sen. Clemente Sanchez wanted to do something about child abuse and its watchdogs in the Children, Youth and Families Department. From his wife, a former social worker, he heard two words: case load. Our underpaid, overextended social workers can’t monitor each kid in a way that might have saved Omaree Varela from the allegedly brutal treatment of his mother.
    Five bills in the recently completed legislative session focused on CYFD, but only one passed, an indicator of both complexity and the distance to consensus.
    Sanchez wanted a limit of 15 cases, which might require another 22 hires. The Child Welfare League of America recommends 12 to 15 children per social worker; the average in CYFD is 12 to 20.
    His fellow Grants Democrat, House Speaker Ken Martinez, introduced “Omaree’s Law,” which would have required CYFD to immediately take custody of a child with injuries consistent with abuse. If abuse was proven, the child would stay in custody until the parent received professional counseling.
    CYFD argued that in fiscal 2013 it received more than 21,000 reports alleging physical abuse. The bill would have the unintended consequence of overwhelming not only CYFD, but the courts.

  • 2012 to 2013: Not appreciably different

    The newest numbers reporting changes in the New Mexico economy start with 5,000, drop to 1,000, jump to 3,000 and return to 1,000.
    The things that changed come with six or seven digits, meaning that the changes aren’t much. We know that, you say. The changes are positive, which is something.
    The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released the figures Feb. 28. The report provides the annual averages for 2012 and 2013 of the employment status of the civilian non-institutional population 16 years of age and over. This group is what we consider when talking about employment. Under 16 doesn’t count.
    Non-institutional means not in jail or some other institution. Civilian means non-military, which leaves out more New Mexicans than we might think. One Internet source indicated 13,000 service personnel in the state.
    The big number — that 5,000 — is the change in the potential working population from 2012 to 2013. It grew from 1.59 million to 1.595 million. Our population grew by a smaller figure — 1,747 — during the year to become 2,083,540 in July 2013, says the Census Bureau. The numbers come from different sources, so speculating on the reason for the difference between population and worker group growth likely is just that — peculation.

  • Tribal sovereignty 101: Skating Obamacare

    The Economic Times of India this week reports that Dr. Devi Shetty, the “Indian cardiac surgeon renown for making cutting-edge medical care affordable to the masses,” is creating a new $70 million startup, deliberately designed by its nearby location, to skate the United States regulatory nightmare, while delivering reduced cost, and advanced healthcare to American citizens.
    Located in the Cayman Islands in a British protectorate, “Health City Cayman” just became operational with a 104-bed, multi-specialty hospital and a team of some 70 Indian doctors, technicians and nurses. Shetty said the facility will begin with costs some 30 percent-plus, lower than U.S. rates on healthcare services, while shooting for a 2000-bed facility, a 50 percent cost reduction, and an additional $2 billion invested within 10 years. A web search shows dozens of U.S. flights daily to the Caymans, many from originating airports, as well as the 90 minute puddle-jumpers from Miami.
    Shetty’s corporate global enterprise, Narayana Health, already controls some 6,300 beds in several countries, including a state-of-the-art facility I used when we lived in Abu Dhabi.

  • Staying away from both versions of the ‘N’ word

    A quick show of hands: How many of you have ever used the version of the N-word that ends in “ger?”
    If you’re like most, you won’t raise your hand even if you have. That word, in its “ger” form, has been rightfully demonized as a remarkably hateful, ignorant and ugly word. Further, there is no statute of limitations for past transgressions — just ask deposed cooking queen Paula Deen. To make matters worse, a guilty plea for its use carries with it a lifelong sentence as a racist with no hope of parole.
    Now let’s have a show of hands for the other variant of that word, this one ending in “gga.” Given this area’s demographics, chances are fairly small that if you’re not a young person singing along to a Jay Z or Eminem tune, you almost certainly don’t know the real difference between “ger” and “gga,” and haven’t used the latter, anyway.
    Nor should you, unless as a white person you have been accepted by the black community as someone sympathetic or in touch with current black culture and its norms. Then, and only then, is that use allowed because at that point it becomes a term of endearment, or at least that’s what I’ve been told, particularly between blacks.

  • Does fracking risk earthquakes?

    Slippery slope” is an all-purpose image. People use it to damn the havoc that others might set in motion.
    Or it might depict the kind of “slippery slope” that lets the Earth’s tectonic plates slip along fault lines to start earthquakes.
    Either image fits a public rift that is in the news out of Oklahoma. A current snarl in the quest for oil involves earthquake risk.
    For many years, hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) has helped produce more oil and gas in Oklahoma. More and more fracking produces more and more oil and gas.
    In recent years, more small earthquakes also have occurred in Oklahoma.
    Does the fracking trigger the small earthquakes? Statistically speaking, the answer appears to be yes.
    Oklahoma always had Earth tremors, averaging about 50 per year, almost all of them minor. In the past three years, the state has had thousands of quakes, with more than 2,600 in 2013.
    Most of the quakes were too slight to be felt, but a few damaged a few houses and one injured two people.
    Actually, the data say that wells for disposing of wastewater from fracking may relate to quakes more than fracking itself. Lands around disposal wells have had jiggles following strong, distant earthquakes.

  • Array of unnecessary standardized tests not helping school children

    For our public school children, spring is an exciting time. It’s warmer and trees and flowers bloom. But it’s also a more stressful time for our kids because this year, like no other year before it, they’ll undergo so many more standardized tests.
    As parents of public school children and leaders in a fight against these unnecessary standardized tests, we want to remind our public school administrators — and some of our teachers — that as educated parents, we know what we want for our children.
    The dizzying array of unnecessary standardized tests forced upon our children by the New Mexico Public Education Department and the school districts are not what we want.
    So we will employ — and encourage other like-minded, caring parents — our right to opt our children out of these unnecessary tests. What tests do we refer to?
    End of Course exams: In 4-8 grades, they are “optional” and only used to evaluate teachers, providing no new data to help drive instruction. We know that by scores of fall EOCs and by the PED’s Joslyn Overby, who stressed that they are optional at a recent teacher training.

  • Sing the body electric

    I love a good movie, especially one that relies more on acting and less on special effects.
    In particular, I love how some movies manage to capture the raw essence of the human condition in a single scene. Sometimes, that condition is warped or contorted with human greed and hatred. Sometimes, it’s mandates tears from the audience as the actors transcend the boundaries of love and tenderless.
    And sometimes it’s just a hoot to sit back and enjoy the slapstick shenanigans of a good funnyman.
    The other day, I happened to catch the end of the 1980 movie “Fame” on TV. The graduating class of the New York High School of Performing Arts performs a finale, singing and dancing to an interpretive rendition of a Walt Whitman poem.
    I sing the body electric. I celebrate the me yet to come. I toast to my own reunion, when I become one with the Sun.
    I sing the body electric. I glory in the glow of rebirth. Creating my own tomorrow, when I shall embody the Earth.
    Seriously, how can you listen to lyrics like that and not marvel at the potential of individual achievement? The fame these students thirsted for was not public recognition or money or power. They were reaching for the stars, to become a light to shine upon others.

  • Rules of engagement: Start with plan for social media outreach

     New Mexico residents turn increasingly to digital resources when seeking out all types of information. According to the most recent (2013) annual Garrity Perception Survey, New Mexicans use television as a news and information source 58 percent of the time, newspaper 39 percent of the time and Internet news sites 29 percent of the time. Those sources are followed by radio (28 percent), Internet blogs (17 percent) and social networking sites (17 percent).
    When Internet news sources, blogs and social media are combined, New Mexico residents turn to digital sources 63 percent of the time, surpassing television. Having an active presence in digital media gives an organization relevance.
    A business’s digital outreach can be as simple as a basic retail website, or it can cover multiple bases with a Facebook page, Twitter account, interactive blog and email marketing. Deciding how far to go with social media technology depends on the business type, available resources and how digital outreach fits into the company’s strategic plan and vision.