Portales principals confident schools will meet Yearly Progress standards

By Eric Butler: PNT staff writer

Portales High School Principal Melvin Nusser and Portales Junior High School Principal Steve Harris have expressed confidence that this year their schools will meet the Adequate Yearly Progress standards mandated by both the state and federal government.

Both men gave lengthy presentations to the Portales Municipal Schools Board of Education Monday night at the district administration building.

They outlined accomplishments, training and other improvements in the 2008-09 school year. However, the pending results of the state-required Criterion Reference Test, due in late July, was the most frequent focal point.

“We’ve been showing good growth over the last year,” said Harris, who based his optimisim on Measures of Academic Progress tests administered three times by his school over the course of the last school year.

“Really, we’ve met our AYP goals in all student categories for the last 15 years,” Harris added. “Where we typically get hit is in our subgroup areas — maybe our special-student-service kids or English-learner kids.”

Nusser said percent of improvement at the high school was above the national average, although the school’s overall scores were below the national average.

One factor of difficulty in giving students the CRT in March, according to the PHS principal, was that little motivation existed for students to score well.

“When you have a test that means nothing to whether they’ll get a diploma or not, you really have to motivate them above and beyond — and I think we did that,” Nusser said.

Portales Superintendent Randy Fowler praised both schools’ teaching and administrative staffs during the meeting.

“It just appears to me that the focus has changed a little bit,” Fowler said. “What’s important is being analyzed and discussed. Our administrators and teachers have made a great improvement, and it shows.”

In other school board business, the final budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year was approved. The projected revenue for the Portales school district is more than $37 million for the year beginning July 1. Of that amount, which is all expected to go back into expenditures, $8.8 million is slated for teacher salaries.

A preliminary budget was initially approved in May and, after several state-required revisions were made, board members unanimously approved the final version as well.