MONTE VISTA—Orlando DeHerrera and Kurt Holland have officially taken their seats on the Monte Vista School District’s Board of Education.
After the pledge of allegiance led by Marsh Students the two new board members were administered the oath of office at the Thursday, Nov. 9 monthly meeting. DeHerrera and Holland were elected by acclamation after the 2017 board elections were cancelled due to only two candidates competing for two open seats.
With DeHerrera and Holland’s election the board had to readjust and assign members to leadership positions. Matt Nehring will continue as school board president; David Reschke will remain vice-president; Gary Wilkinson is treasurer; DeHerrera is secretary, and Holland is assistant secretary/treasurer.
“Thank you both for your willingness to serve,” said Nehring.
Drug testing for athletes
After the appointments the floor was opened up for items from the audience. A group of parents and community members took the opportunity to present a case to have mandatory and random drug testing for athletes.
Judy Lujan was the first to speak. “I’m a 1973 graduate of Monte Vista High School. For the past 25 years I’ve worked in multiple capacities with troubled and at-risk youth. I’ve also worked as a school bus driver and with child protective services. I know when they legalized marijuana in Colorado it affected adults but what I’m seeing is what’s going on with our youth in our own community and even our athletes. I have three grandchildren in this school district. One is really struggling, yet he’s playing football, and I know he’s using. My suggestion would be that we start requiring drug testing for athletes...There are many parents and even students in this school district who are tired of this going on. This is still my school district and my community and with all the work I’ve done with youth I will feel I have failed if I don’t bring this to people’s attention. I’m concerned because we are not just talking about straight marijuana these days, we’re talking about marijuana that is laced with cocaine, meth and heroin and kids don’t know what they’re putting in their bodies,” she said.
Phinel Garcia also spoke. Garcia coaches a traveling basketball team which has already begun testing their athletes. “We had this concern come up with our group of boys. We had a big meeting with parents and the athletes. The parents know me and trust me since I’ve worked with their boys since they were in second grade. They as a group made a decision to have the boys tested… they all drove them down to [SLV Community] Corrections for $17 a test. I know it can be done...people always want to blame the school but it starts at home. I don’t like the excuse that if we tested our athletes we wouldn’t have any sports. I’ve heard that one. That’s pretty harsh. We only did one test but it was clear to the boys that we could test at any given point,” he said.
Debbie Garcia also spoke regarding the issue and related proactive steps. She presented a plan from Commissioner Karla Shriver to make Safe2Tell a more well known program throughout the county’s municipalities, schools, courts and law enforcement. The program is designed to help students to report anonymously any issues they may be afraid to, such as suicidal thoughts, drugs, sexting, weapons, the choking game and more. The program’s website provides a wealth of resources to help combat these incidents. Garcia said that Shriver was wondering if the school would be willing to participate in a greater community-wide training session for Safe2Tell.
Garcia was informed that the Monte Vista School District already participates in Safe2Tell as do most schools in the Valley. Information is provided on a regular basis to students and parents. However, Superintendent Robert Webb said there is no coordinated effort and it is possibly not communicated enough. Webb thought that overall the coordinated effort is a good idea.
Garcia shared that an added benefit of the school and community participating in a greater level with Safe2Tell is an accountability piece. For example, if a situation is reported that could be the next Columbine, higher agencies such as the CBI are also informed. Safe2Tell also follows up with local law enforcement to see what actions were taken or how the situation was handled.
Sandra Dominguez was the final person to speak on these issues. “I, as a parent, have to take a stand because I almost lost my son. He was a great football player and wrestler. I am proud of him today because he took a stand to back away and he knew he was wrong. I am concerned because this had been going on since middle school. I went to several teachers and above about the concerns and I wish they would have shown more concern because it might have saved him. My son is struggling. My son is doing better and looks better and I hope that he can graduate proudly. I have another freshman. He came up to me and said, ‘Mom what’s going on? Everyone is smoking weed and it’s been offered to me and I don’t want to do that.’ I’m proud of him for stepping up and telling me. I am here to say we need support from the school and the teachers. Let’s do something about it before we lose another child,” she said.
The school board and superintendent agreed to move forward to take steps to help with this community concern. They will be discussing the issues and state rules and regulations to see how they can make a difference not only in sports but throughout the school district.