A possible threat to staff and and students at Houston Middle School in Hobbs last week prompted Superintendent of Schools Gene Strickland to address the district Board of Education during a portion of its regular meeting Tuesday typically reserved for comment from the public.
The potential threat, which turned out to be completely unfounded, emerged via Face-book, intimating the potential for a shooting at the school.
While praising the quick response to the threat from school officials, parents and students as well as the Hobbs Police Department, Strickland was critical of the way word of the threat spread.
“Students were involved in what began as a joke among a close group of friends became a problem when it became part of social media,” Strickland told the board. “Ultimately there was no credibility to the threat.
“It wasn’t even plausible to what the threat posed. That doesn’t lessen the fear, the concern, the anxiety and disruption for Houston Middle School and all the schools in our district.”
Strickland reminded parents and students the best way to notify the district of a possible threat is to contact campus principals or the district’s central office, not via a group on social media. Turning to social media “only delays the process” of responding to threats at a time when minutes, even seconds, count, he said.
“When things are bothersome, worrying or cause you concern, let your campus principals know, let your teachers know or let me know,” Strickland said. “We don’t have our head in the sand and we will deal with it.”
The four students involved, whom Strickland did not identify due to their status as juveniles, are facing discipline in the school district. Also, the Hobbs Police Department are investigating potential criminal aspects to the incident, Strickland said.
“This will not be passed off as a ‘dont-do-that-again’ incident,” he said. “And the police side is a different matter. There’s also a criminal side to that.
“These ‘jokes’ are not jokes. It needs to be addressed that maybe students, or maybe members of our community, think we don’t do anything with that. We do and we will.”
Following Strickland’s comments, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Debbie Cooper provided the board with information concerning programs educators use to plan how and what they teach to ensure continuity in lessons.
Teachers use what are known as Professional Learning Communities and Common Planning Times throughout the day to ensure students in different grade level sections are receiving similar or identical information from the curriculum, Cooper said. All the first-grade teachers on a campus, for example, would meet typically once per week to discuss and coordinate lesson plans, she said.
“Collaboration helps people grow,” Cooper said. “This has been a major part of the data-driven instruction the district has been utilizing for several years now.”
Campus principals are also part of the process, she said. They meet with the instructors as they plan and provide support for the teachers. But it’s important the teachers oversee the instructional process and materials themselves, she said.
It’s the same at the secondary schools, Cooper said, with teachers utilizing the common planning process to make sure content is consistent.
Professional Learning Communities provide a chance for staff to further coordinate planning and data analysis that’s important for reporting purposes, Cooper said. The communities typically meet on Wednesdays when students get out of school earlier than normal, she said.
“We have the entire staff together,” Cooper said. “It’s a great time to look at 90-day plans, data across the school. It can also be used for professional development time.”
In other business, the board:
• Heard operations department reports including updates on ongoing projects, reports on completed maintenance and Computer Assisted Instruction department work orders and campus safety drills;
• Approved the concurrent agenda, including expenditures investments and budget information;
• Approved an ongoing agreement to provide transportation services to students groups;
• Approved bids with three firms — Cuddy McCarthy Himes, Petrarca & Fester and Walsh Gallegos — for legal counseling services for the district, and;
• Approved accepting $100,000 from Hobbs City Commissioner Don Gerth and approved matching district funds to update elementary school libraries across the district to bring in newer books.
The next meeting of the Hobbs Municipal Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 18 in the board room 1515 E. Sanger St.