Rio Rancho Public Schools

Profiles March-April 2024

April 8, 2024
People, places & goings-on in education

Vending machine motivates students at New Mexico elementary school

The vending machine at Ernest Stapleton elementary School in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, dispenses treats for students, but it doesn’t have candy bars or chips.

The rows are filled with books that students can acquire if they receive “Paws-itive” referrals (the school mascot is the coyote) by meeting goals in attendance, behavior, math and reading, or if they receive Principal Awards for exhibiting kindness or other “character strong” traits.

Students who meet the goals receive a gold token that they insert into the machine (it doesn’t take money) and enables them to choose one of the books on display. The book drops to the bottom of the machine, and students take the book home.

The machine provides incentives for positive behavior and gets students excited about reading, teachers say.

The school’s PTA says worked for more than two years raising funds to acquire the machine.


Liberty University pays record fine for safety violations

Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, has agreed to pay a record $14 million fine for violations of federal campus safety laws.

The U.S. Department of Education says its settlement agreement with Liberty stems from the university’s “material and ongoing violations” of the Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to collect data on campus crime and notify students of threats.

The fine is the largest ever imposed for violating the Clery Act, which requires institutions to provide important information about public safety issues to students, parents, employees, prospective students and employees, and the public postsecondary schools participating in the federal student aid programs.

As a part of the settlement, Liberty has agreed to spend $2 million over the next two years for on-campus safety improvements and compliance enhancements. The Education Department will conduct post-review monitoring of Liberty through April 2026 to ensure that the school carries out the promised improvements.

“The $14 million fine and other remedial actions imposed in this settlement reflect the serious and longstanding nature of Liberty’s violations, which undermined campus safety for students, faculty, and staff,” the Education Department says in a news release. “The settlement also takes into account current Liberty administration’s prompt acknowledgment of almost all the violations identified in the program review report, and its demonstrated commitment to remedying them.”


Superintendent of the Year changes jobs

Less than two weeks after being named the national school superintendent of the year, the leader of the St. Paul (Minnesota) district announced that he is leaving that post for the top job in the Madison (Wisconsin) district.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that the Madison school board has hired Joe Gothard, who has been the superintendent in St. Paul since 2017. 

"Dr. Gothard has been a strong leader for [St. Paul], and we are grateful for his nearly seven years of service to this community," said Halla Henderson, chair of the St. Paul school board. "At the same time, we are excited he has the opportunity to continue his career and return to his hometown with his family."

A native of Madison, Gothard had worked in the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) for 18 years as a teacher, principal and district administrator.

“Having grown up in Madison, and having attended MMSD from kindergarten through grade 12, I am excited to return home,” Gothard said in a statement on the Madison district website.

In February, AASA, The School Superintendents Association, selected Gothard as its 2024 national superintendent of the year.

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