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Howell wants to focus on the student above all else


Edward Howell, candidate for School Board District 4, is running against Teresa Tenorio (incumbent) and Julia Ruiz for this election cycle. District 4, mostly north and west of Las Cruces, has four elementary and two middle schools.

The election is Tuesday, Nov. 7, with school board races for Las Cruces Public Schools, the Gadsden Independent School District and Hatch Valley Public Schools and municipal elections in Las Cruces, Mesilla, Hatch, Sunland Park and Anthony, New Mexico.

“The number one focus is to make sure the kids get a good education,” Howell said. “But there are so many things that impact a child.”

He said it is easy to make the child the focus in the district, building on the educational process. But, in Las Cruces, he believes the parents are distant from the process of educating the kids,

With the decline of Parent Teacher Organizations and a time when parents would go to talk with and meet the teachers, the avenues where parents can get involved have diminished.

“(Parents) just don’t seem to support the good efforts the schools are trying to do in the classroom,” he said.  “When the public schools were started back in the 1800s, it was initiated by the parents. Now the parents have pulled back, primarily because of the funding.”

A businessman of many years, Howell believes because funds come from the state and the local taxpayers, and people don’t get a bill every month for education, they don’t really see what they are contributing to learning.

“It’s a distant thing; they don’t really see or seem to want to be involved in what is happening,” Howell said. “Without that involvement, the schools are going to fail.”

He thinks school board members need to make opportunities to have discussions with the parents and make a point of going to every school in their district every week to talk to people.

Howell talked about a recent controversy in the LCPS. He said if a child talks to the teacher about things that concern them, parents aren’t notified.

“I would not have allowed that,” he said. “Kids need that 12 years to mature and that means leadership in the family to support the kids’ upbringing.”

As a substitute in the system, Howell said he saw a lot of schools with great support systems in the district, but he also saw that children are not prepared.

“These kids could not write their names,” he said. “Literally, they are not getting their education.

“Every child, all 24,000 of them, deserve the best education given their limitations,” Howell said. “This is someone’s future; their whole life is dependent on their preparation in school.”

Howell said he has worked with students since he was in college. As a businessman (he was in the furniture business until he retired) in El Paso, he worked with students in the schools three times a week.

He believes the school system should invest in quality teachers.

“There is a critical shortage nationally of educators,” he said. “Although we are getting the income to be competitive, we are not paying teachers competitively. So we are not going to get good teachers To leave Texas, or California, or New York or Florida and come to Las Cruces to get a job. We for sure have to raise their salaries.”

But, he said, LCPS has to also be willing to let go the teachers who are in the wrong profession and replace them with those who are good educators. He said the system has a mechanism in place to replace teachers, but none of them get replaced.

“In business that’s what you do,” he said. “They are not bad people, just in the wrong profession.”

Howell also believes today’s teachers are facing too many non-teaching requirements.

“They are disciplinarians, they are counselors, kids come to them because parents aren’t listening, so they are substitute parents,” he said. “A good teacher cares for these students. It’s hard to teach, because you want to help these students.”

One solution is to have more counselors, he said. But the district doesn’t seem to put that as a focus.

Howell said the district, really, all the districts in New Mexico, “are awash in money” because of oil and natural gas revenues in the state. In addition to the physical support of buildings, the biggest chunk of money goes to people, inlcuding teachers, administrators and support staff.

“Every institution is top-heavy in administrators,” he said. “I don’t mean fire everybody, but you ought to be able to get your hands around who those administrators are and streamline those operations (through attrition). It’s all about focus, focus, focus.

“Other than the absolute hands-on relationship between teacher and students, everything else is under review in my mind.”

As he watches the school board, Howell said it appears they have lost focus on the students. The board is good at running the support organization, he said, which must be done.

“You have to put gas in the car, and you have to put air in the tires,” he said. “But you also have to get the car to get you from here to there.”