Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez will seek approval from the SFPS Board of Education at its next regular meeting, Aug. 16, to hire PE teachers for the four schools that were previously dependent on parent fundraising, Gutierrez told the BoE last night. ---

The four schools that would be added are Wood Gormley (one full-time teacher) Acequia Madre, Atalaya and Carlos Gilbert (two teachers total between the three schools). In addition, Nava would get an additional eight hours worth of a PE teacher's time per week and Nava would get an additional 12 hours. The total cost to the district is estimated at $180,000.

The changes would be effective immediately, in time for this school year, Gutierrez tells SFR. Since there are already job openings for PE teachers in the district, interviews for the additional teachers can start right away, but actual hiring will await the BoE's approval first.

"I don't anticipate that the board would not approve it and I didn't hear any real objections," Gutierrez says. 

Gutierrez says the fact that four of the eight schools left unfunded after a five-year state funding phase in plan was abandoned could have left the district open to liability because it could be considered "reverse discrimination," as she put it. The schools' PE funding was phased in beginning with the schools serving the most impoverished populations.

"I think [in funding some but not all schools' PE] we created some unintended consequences that I believe are going to bring some legal liability to the board if we don't address it in terms of a little bit of maybe reverse discrimination or inequity," Gutierrez told the BoE during the Superintendent's Announcements portion of last night's meeting.

The cost of funding the additional positions would come out of the district's cash balance.

"I think we need to bite the bullet and hope like heck that our funding improves in this coming year, but I do think we need to go ahead and fund those PE teachers," Gutierrez told the BoE.

Gutierrez tells SFR that she decided to take this action earlier in the day yesterday after mulling the issue and realizing it was the right thing to do, for legal reasons, fairness and to help meet kids' fitness needs. SFR discussed the issue with Gutierrez and other SFPS administrators last week while researching the issues with PE funding for Santa Fe elementary schoolers. Santa Fe parent Lynn Komer, who was active in lobbying for state legislation in 2007 that provided for the gradual phase-in plan, previously told SFR that Gutierrez "gets" the importance of PE.

At least one of the four schools' PTA parents is excited about the tentative victory.

"That's huge," Atalaya PTA President Dave Merriman says. "We were told years ago that we would eventually be funded. Now we can actually raise money for academic stuff."