The Carlsbad Municipal School Board met Sept. 23 in a special session to hear a report on the review of Pecos Connections Academy, an online charter school.

The review examined several service and educational aspects of Pecos Connections Academy (PCA) for compliance with New Mexico Public Education charter law and Carlsbad School District requirements.

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Deputy Superintendent of Carlsbad Schools LaVern Shan said staff at Carlsbad performed the review which stretched across bilingual education, English language learning, special education, finance, student proficiency, record keeping and procurement and administration.

Shan told members of the School Board that PCA that there were concerns that the charter school failed to meet educational goals set for student achievement. Among those concerns was a reported 8.2 percent proficiency in literacy among third grade students tested in 2019. In 2018 the proficiency was reported at 14 percent.

Shan also noted that the school showed minimal growth in math proficiency among students tested.

More: Carlsbad school district to investigate complaints against Pecos Connections Academy

A chronic absence rate, or non-attendance rate, of 21.02 percent was noted for the school, data which Shan said reflects upon the Carlsbad School District. Shan said PCA’s response to the issue was that it would adjust its attendance monitoring and work with other charter school leaders across the state to learn from their success.

The review of other areas of education at PCA also revealed pointed concerns. 

Though PCA representatives said it hired two bilingual teachers for the school year, Allison Hervol, Title IX coordinator, said the school was non-compliant in administering English Language surveys and implementing required courses for those students in prior years.

Justin Gossett, Carlsbad’s special education director, noted that online charter school needed to work to update its policies and procedures governing alternative education, and its written special education plan.

In June 2020, the School Board approved a $12 million budget for PCA. 

Then-Interim principal Gloria Lopez said that the budget was still under review by the PED with a deadline of June 3, and projected the school would enroll 1,469 students in the coming year, with a total of $11,728,669.30 in public education funds from the state to support their education. Enrollment stood at 1,819 students at the time.

Carlsbad School’s Finance Director Laura Garcia said the charter school was operating in a fiscally sound manner, with expenditures falling within current revenue. Garcia said cash balance for the school was up, which was expected as the enrollment tended upward.

She did note however, that the school needed a better procedure to reconcile student enrollment counts to verify the State Equalization Guarantee (SEG) calculation. The SEG is used by the State of New Mexico to finance public education.

Carol McCallister, director of student data services, noted that PCA needed to a “better job of validating enrollment data and students it’s servicing and making sure those align perfectly.”

Carlsbad School Board members were supplied with a copy of the review as well as the PCA’s response and action plan.

The PCA said it would be applying for a district charter with an application due date of Oct. 1. The School Board is expected to vote on approval of the charter application in an October meeting.

More: Carlsbad School Board approves $206M budget for next school year

Jessica Onsurez can be reached at [email protected], @JussGREAT on Twitter at by phone at 575-628-5531.

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