Portales school officials unhappy with governor’s veto on salaries

William P. Thompson

Gov. Bill Richardson recently vetoed $6.3 million in funding to the state’s three-tiered licensure system for teachers, and now the Portales school district will have to make adjustments in its budget to come up with $300,000 to $400,000.

Debbie Zurzolo, business manager for Portales schools, said she doesn’t know yet what will be cut or reduced from the schools’ budget to fund the teacher salaries.
“That’s what we’ve got to figure out,” Zurzolo said. “It (the veto) was very unexpected. It was a big blow. I’d say it (the amount of money needed to be moved)” is probably going to be closer to $400,000.”

Portales school board President Rod Savage questioned Richardson’s reason for “mandating salaries and not funding them.” Mike Miller, a consultant to the school board on legislative matters, told board members that the only explantion he could think of was Richardson wanted to ensure that the state keep 10 percent of its revenues in reserve.

The three-tiered licensure system ensures minimum teacher salaries at three levels.

Level I teachers need five years of experience to move up to Level II and Level II teachers need five years of experience to move up to Level III, according to Priscilla Mestas, assistant superintendent and director of instruction for Portales schools.

Teachers must also complete a “professional development dossier” to move up one level, she said.

The minimum salary for Level II teachers during 2005-2006 is $40,000. The minimum salary for Level III teachers during the same period is $45,000. Level II and Level III minimum salaries will increase by $10,000 during the 2006-2007 school year.

Also at Monday’s school board meeting:

l The board voted to postpone a vote on a proposed draft of the 2006-2007 school calendar after board member Mary Lou Rowley said she felt the draft didn’t have enough Christmas vacation days before Dec. 25.
According to the draft, students would be released early on Dec. 22 and return to school Jan. 9. Rowley said she hoped the board would approve of students being released from school Dec. 19 and then adding two days at the end of the school calendar year.
“Christmas is the major family holiday,” Rowley said. “I think teachers, families and students should have more time.”

l Spring break will be from March 27-31.