Briseno banking on accross-the-board experience in education

By Tony Parra: PNT staff writer

Editor’s note: This is the third of five interviews with the finalists for the Portales School Superintendent position:

David Briseno is principal at La Casita Elementary in Clovis. He is also the federal programs director for the district, where he oversees more than $3 million in federal grants per year for the schools.

Q: What aspects of your job will translate to the superintendent job?
A: I believe several of them will. I’ve worked with building principals and have a good, working relationship with them. I’ve made sure they’ve spent their money in all of the right places.
The work I’ve done with the Public Education Department (is also a strength).
Another aspect of my job is as a principal of Choices Alternative School. We have 100 students each year go through the alternative school, 70 of them on site.

Q: What stands out about Portales schools from your observations?
Strengths: The people that work for the district is the strength of any district and I believe Portales is no different. There’s a great staff teaching and in the central office.
Another strength is the commitment the school has to provide a good, quality education.
Needs Improvements: Not just in Portales but in the state of New Mexico, being able to meet the mandates of “No Child Left Behind” so that we can provide a good, quality education.

Q: What qualifies you for the position?
A: I think over the years the different things I have done which go beyond my job description. As a superintendent you have to be able to provide leadership.
During my 22 years, (I’ve shown) the ability to work a budget and stay within the budget.
(I have) the ability to work with state legislators and members of the Public Education Department. I’ve developed a good relationship with Secretary of Education Veronica Garcia.

Q: None of Portales schools met the state’s adequate yearly progress (AYP). What are your impressions of that and what needs to be done to fix it?
A: As I recall, the lack of AYP achievement was because of subgroups. The problem is the more subgroups you have, the more likely you won’t meet AYP. For instance, La Casita was judged in four different categories where as most of the other Clovis schools were judged on two categories.
There were certain things AYP didn’t take into consideration. AYP didn’t look at the student’s growth. They didn’t look at where the student was at when they (school officials) got the student. The student’s progress wasn’t taken into account.
The testing should be performance-based. “No Child Left Behind” is good, but we need to take a look at some things.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge the district is facing?
A: The challenge is a financial one. Answering the question, how are we going to meet the mandates with our budget and how we can deal with “No Child Left Behind.”

Q: Is there a way to make budget cuts that won’t affect instruction?
A: I don’t think so. Every decision you make will affect instruction. Spending in a district is critical. We have to know where we are at in our budget and decide where to cut the budget. We don’t want to have to cut programs and services because sadly, those are the first to get cut.
We (school board, administrators and staff) have to come up with a plan of action to balance the budget until there’s better funding.

Q: What must be done to make sure the online classes and the move of Broad Horizons Educational Center are successes?
A: I’m for anything (online classes) that can help a student. There a kids who can already get credits online (extended learning). If it works, we need to be doing it.
As I understand it, (the Broad Horizons move) was a necessary move because of financial reasons. In my experience an alternative school at a separate site has been more successful. However, I believe it can be done. It will take hard work to sure it does.
From my experience as principal of Choices, we have to have a more ridged schedule and a closed campus. Having passing times (open periods) can also be a problem. The more free time students have, the more chance they have to get into trouble.
Having said that, it can still be a success if people in the district work hard to make sure it’s a success.

— Compiled by PNT staff writer Tony Parra