TPS council approves some dress code changes

The Tucumcari school board last week approved revised student dress code regulations for the 2022-2023 school year, but delayed action on hairstyles and tattoos until members can discuss it further at its August meeting.

Council members, who agreed that dress code revisions were overdue at its June meeting, unanimously approved new rules for ups and downs at its July 18 meeting so parents can go shopping for clothes before the start of the school year in mid-August.

However, council members expressed doubts about the revised hair and tattoo regulations. The proposed rule states, “Tattoos or skin stamps may not display anything considered prohibited.

Superintendent Aaron McKinney and Assistant Superintendent Dave Johnson said the prohibited tattoos would include profanity, images with nudity or gang symbols.

“How are we going to determine what is gang-related and non-gang-related? asked board member Jerry Lopez.

Johnson said the district generally consults with other districts and the Tucumcari Police Department to discern prohibited gang symbols.

Lopez, noting that the proposed policy requiring hairstyles, mustaches and beards to be “well groomed,” also criticized a section that stated that students who volunteer for extracurricular activities may be subject to stricter standards by sponsors or coaches. He said he wanted consistency “on every level” with the beards.

Johnson noted the New Mexico Activities Association for certain sports, including wrestling, beards for safety reasons.

After more discussion, board members agreed to discuss tattoo and hairstyle issues in a business session at 5:30 p.m. before their regular meeting in August.

Board Approved Dress Code Changes:

• “Rings or jewelry at pierced locations on a student’s body may be worn only in the ears and other areas of the face.”

• “Leggings can be under appropriate length outerwear.”

• “For ripped jeans above mid-thigh, leggings or similar should be worn underneath to cover visible skin.”

• “All outer garments (shorts, skirts, dresses and tops up to leggings) must not be shorter than mid-thigh. (This does not apply to shorts or skirts worn as an approved uniform.)”

In other cases:

• The board, by a 4-1 vote, approved a two-year contract retroactive to July 1 for McKinney with a salary of $145,000 a year until mid-2024. That’s an increase of about $20,000.

The deal followed a 70-minute closed executive session in which board members twice called McKinney into a board room. Lopez cast the only dissenting vote.

McKinney said after the meeting that he would retire at the end of the 2023-24 school year. He was superintendent for 16 years.

The board was scheduled to discuss or approve McKinney’s contract at its June meeting, but he fell ill with COVID-19 and was unable to attend.

• The board filed a motion on a consent agenda item on whether to allow Business Manager Janet Sanchez to make budget adjustments throughout the school year.

McKinney and Sanchez said permission is sometimes needed to place urgent orders, such as COVID-19 tests, but not large purchases before the next board meeting. He said that these budget adjustments will always be on the agenda of the board meeting for the sake of transparency.

Sanchez said those purchases are usually under $50,000, but sometimes exceed $100,000. Board members asked him to provide examples of what could be purchased under such authorization and a suggested maximum threshold.

• The Board of Directors voted in favor of a decision on whether to revise a compensation and expense policy for Board members.

Virtually all board members have said they are unwilling to accept payment for attending meetings, which McKinney says can be accomplished by signing an affidavit.

However, McKinney advised them not to reject the policy of paying board members per diems for travel to conferences.

• Council approved a resolution to participate in the New Mexico Department of Transportation’s Local Government Road Fund program to improve drainage near the middle school and main cafeteria.

“Low spots along with poor drainage cause water to pool and create a layer of ice during the winter months, making it unsafe for staff and students,” the resolution reads. The project will cost $34,865, with the district’s share being $8,716.

• During council comments, Lopez and Gonzales questioned a policy requiring clear backpacks for middle school students when they are not required for high school. Transparent backpacks allow school officials to see possible weapons.

Gonzales said she was willing to install metal detectors at entrances instead of requiring see-through backpacks, which wear out quickly. She said one student went through four see-through backpacks in a single school year.

• Lopez again asked if board meetings could be streamed live on the internet and then their video archived online. McKinney asked his staff to put the request on the August board meeting as an action item.

• During his superintendent’s report, McKinney stated that the delivery of new air conditioning units to the elementary school was to take place in August. He said the installation would take three to four months as it has to be done in phases.

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