Chaves County school districts introduce many changes |

Dexter, Hagerman and Lake Arthur public schools have a number of new developments for the upcoming academic year, according to their superintendents.

The new plans range from grounds improvement, to academic program launches, to efforts to reconnect with the community.

Dexter: Improve instruction, community outreach

The new superintendent for Dexter Consolidated School District, Heather Garner, said that the top priority is to focus on implementing a districtwide instructional framework for kindergarten to 12th grade that includes using data to improve teaching practices and student outcomes.

“When we are talking about student outcomes, we are looking for growth, not just proficiency,” Garner said. “We know that our students are struggling in some areas, like across the nation, but let’s not focus on whether or not they are proficient. But let’s see where every student is and then pinpoint how we will help them show growth based off our teaching strategies.”

Garner said the district will name a director for the initiative to be responsible for collaboration across the elementary, middle and high school faculty. The initiative also will involve a lab where teachers can observe successful instructional practices.

The school also plans a new approach to help students readjust to a social learning environment after the COVID-19 period when many kids spent long hours and more than a year isolated from others, often without much adult interaction, and learning only via computers.

She said this “restorative” process was meant to re-engage students in the educational process and refresh their awareness about the attitudes, behaviors and “cooperative learning” wanted in the classroom, on the playground and among students. She said the process is meant as an intervention prior to any type of formal disciplinary or suspension actions.

Dexter Middle School implemented the practice last year, Garner added.

“They had great success. They only had one physical altercation and it was very minimal, and that is awesome for a middle school,” she said.

A third priority is relaunching events that will connect the schools with the larger community. That is expected to start in the fall with Homecoming week activities in September and the Fall Festival at the elementary school, Garner said. The events will involve all three schools, all departments and units as well as community residents, organizations and businesses.

She said the district wants to “build our community rapport and relationships back and bring back some of those fun, family traditions that Dexter was so known for.”

Other community-district events during the year are expected to include a spelling bee, Science Night, Math Night, a “Dexter’s Got Talent” competition, and a Free Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA) Night to introduce students and guardians to the financial aid application needed when applying for grants, federal loans or scholarships for college.

Garner said the largest construction project for the year is the rebuilding of the bus barn, located off campus a few miles from Dexter in an area of ​​the county known as Greenfield. The structure was destroyed in a fire that the Dexter Fire and Rescue Department indicated occurred in February 2021. Garner said that the foundation has been poured and construction for the structure should begin soon.

Hagerman: New website, expanded technical education options

The Hagerman Municipal Schools’ new website is more than a graphic redesign, said Hagerman Superintendent Curtis Clough.

He said the new site launched July 1 will improve communication and foster more connections among the community and the district’s students, staff and faculty. The website address remains the same at

“It is a first-class communication tool that is really catered to a student and parent needs,” Clough said. “An example would be that we will have a district master calendar of all events, but the parents can sort it by what buildings their students are in. They don’t have to see the entire master calendar. If their kid is in our elementary, they can click on the elementary and only see the elementary events.”

Other selections could be by activities or teams. The site will also allow livestreaming of events, and a phone app (or application) is available so people can be alerted as soon as new information is added to the site.

The district has been working on it since April, and Clough said he and others are still learning all of its features.

The district is also adding more classes and more programs to its career technical education offerings, what prior generations used to refer to as vocational or occupational education.

The district is offering an Ag Science/Ag Mechanics Career Academy after hiring its second agricultural education teacher for grades eight to 12. Some students will be able to enroll in dual credit course at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales and will be academically prepared to enter the college’s degree programs after high school graduation.

An Educator Rising program will be one of the first offered in eastern New Mexico to prepare students to become teachers, with 15 students enrolled at this time.

A full-time welding instructor and another vocational instructor are upgrading the welding program that would allow some students to graduate with up to three certificates and possibly a national welding industry certificate. That program is aligned with ENMU-Roswell.

The district also is starting a cybersecurity program for high school students and a beginning computer coding class for seventh and eighth graders, with ENMU-Ruidoso as the partner on the high school program.

Clough said every seventh and eighth grader will take coding, and already 12 high school students are enrolled in the cybersecurity program, which could allow students to become certified as computer tech assistants as well.

“Right now we have roughly 74% of our students taking at least one CTE class,” he said, adding that percentage is prior to final registration. “One of the things the board did when they hired me last year was point out the number of kids we have that wanted to have work-related experiences and being able to get those courses that aligned to their desired pathways.”

He said many Hagerman High School graduates delay going to college. More often, graduates work for at least a couple of years before entering college. Surveys of students have informed the district about which programs and classes to offer.

“We look at career and tech ed as a primary means for them to be successful at school and graduate,” Clough said, “because they are motivated to come to school, working in an area or pathway they have a passion for.”

Lake Arthur: Build on K-2 growth, upgrades for campus

Lake Arthur Municipal Schools Superintendent Elisa Begueria says that her district will move this coming year to replicate the kind of success it has had with some of its youngest students.

At the New Mexico Coalition of Education Conference in Albuquerque on July 13, state Secretary of Education Kurt Steinhaus commended four elementary schools in the state with English-learner students in kindergarten to second-graders showing significant progress in their early literacy scores.

At Lake Arthur, its students started the year with only 9% scoring at satisfactory levels, or Level 3 or above on the Istation tests. By mid-year, 36% were testing at that Level 3. By the end of the year, 54% were.

“I feel like we have done a good job establishing some systems for our little ones and for teachers to have some time to work together and look at data,’ she said. “We want to replicate that success all the levels. We have the systems all the way to eighth grade, but high school is always a bit more challenging to align teachers’ schedules.”

She said the district has selected a new interim assessment for the high school, chosen because of its similarity to the SAT, so that teachers and students can be assured that students are learning what they need to.

“We are going to provide the teachers with time to work together, to learn it and reflect on it,” she said, “because we know that when we do that, things work and we make progress.”

In terms of campus improvements, the district received a 2022 capital outlay award of $150,000 to purchase and install shade structures over the playground, with Begueria saying that outdoor time is vital for students, especially younger ones. The district will also use its own funds to renovate the girls’ and boys’ bathrooms for the high school.

“It is always an ongoing process when you are a smaller district,” she said. “It is never-ending.”

In prior years, the district added secured fencing for the campus, repaired roofs and added a canopy to connect the cafeteria to a classroom building.

Begueria said the new projects are expected to be completed during the academic year.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.