For New Mexico Department of Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus, the visits to schools in Elida and Floyd on Thursday were something of a homecoming, since both school districts are in the county of Roosevelt, where Steinhaus grew up and received his bachelor’s degree.
In fact, he said as he toured elementary classrooms at Floyd Schools on Thursday with Superintendent Damon Terry, his stepmother Pat Glasscock once taught at the Floyd School.
Steinhaus grew up in Portales and earned her bachelor’s degree in music education from Eastern New Mexico University.
Steinhaus visited Floyd Schools as the third leg of a two-day tour of eastern New Mexico schools that began Wednesday, with a visit to schools in Fort Sumner.
On Thursday, Steinhaus remained in Roosevelt County. Before visiting Floyd Schools, he visited Elida Schools, where he had lunch with high school students before touring elementary and middle school classrooms with Superintendent Tandee Delk and Principal Waverly Criswell.
As Steinhaus and Terry toured the classrooms at Floyd School on Thursday, there was no sign of the animosity a year ago that led to the suspension of the Floyd School’s school board by the Department of Education. New Mexico Public Education.
The suspension resulted from Floyd’s board’s refusal to mandate mask-wearing in classrooms, as directed by the PED, while the COVID-19 pandemic was still active. Floyd’s council voted on July 26, 2021 to make mask wearing and other COVID-19 protocols optional.
Then DEP Secretary Ryan Stewart in August 2021 followed through on his threats to suspend Floyd’s board, but kept Terry as superintendent.
Earlier this year, the suspension was lifted when three of the five council members who had been suspended were replaced in an election, and the other two suspended council members resigned, Terry said.
Board members who had resigned were then reappointed to the board, Terry said, after the suspension ended.
Steinhaus was named education secretary after Stewart resigned in August 2020, citing family health issues.
On Thursday, Steinhaus and Terry agreed it was water under the bridge, and both said they were looking to the future and, in Steinhaus’s words, “doing what is right.” better for the kids.”
Both said they were relieved to start a school year with students in classrooms as usual, after two school years were marred by the strains of mandate masks and remote learning.
Terry described how school buses delivered homework and assignments during remote learning, as well as meals that would normally be served in class.
As Thursday’s tour continued, Terry announced that Floyd Schools were fully staffed with teachers for the 2022-2023 school year.
Terry and Steinhaus also discussed how they would announce with a banner at a Thursday night Watermelon welcome event acknowledging Floyd Schools for gains made in elementary grades through the Istation program, which measures student progress while providing lessons that adapt and advance students’ learning levels.
Steinhaus and Terry also spoke of the neighborhood’s reluctance to request a new building, despite the age of the current building.
Due to Floyd’s low enrollment, Terry said, a replacement building would be about half the size of the current structure.
Terry, who has worked at the Floyd School for 21 years, said he remembered taking lessons as a child in one of the classrooms he and Steinhaus visited during the tour.
Terry said Floyd High School only graduated with five higher degrees in May. High school enrollment is very low, but he said the district is seeing an increase in middle school and elementary school enrollment.
The enrollment of Floyd Schools for the 2021-2022 school year was 225 students. Of those students, 47 were in high school, according to PED data.
Terry and Steinhaus also discussed school bus trips. A third-grade student said his bus ride took 24 minutes each way.
Terry said students from kindergarten through high school will be on the same buses, and Terry said he would serve as a backup bus driver when needed, as he holds a CDL driver’s license.
“In a small district,” Terry said, “everyone does a bit of everything.”