We pray for the continued safety of the families — and their homes, livestock and pets — affected by the Assayii Lake Fire in the Chuska mountains above our Naschitti, Sheep Springs, and Newcomb communities. There have been some confirmed loses of property as well as possible loss of livestock in summer camps on the mountain.

We share in the grief of those families.

We also pray for the safety of the Hotshot fire crews, who are battling the 12,000-acre-plus blaze in high winds and stifling dense smoke.

The Central Consolidated School District has provided the Newcomb High School Skyhawks' Gymnasium as a free overnight emergency shelter. It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to anyone who needs it until the crisis has ended. The District and the shelter are accepting donations of blankets and any supplies someone staying a shelter may need.

Why is CCSD involved in this crisis since it is outside of the classroom?

Raising kids is a community activity. It takes everybody. When a community is in trouble we need to go to their defense to help whenever and wherever we can. These are our students, parents, grandparents, and uncles and aunts, and so on. They are our responsibility.

CCSD Director of Operations Colleen Bowman and CCSD Food Service Supervisor Margene Purcella, and their staffs, are working closely with the Navajo Nation Office of Emergency Management and the Red Cross at the shelter to ensure everyone is taken care of with hot meals and a place to sleep. CCSD Transportation Supervisor Cynthia Theodore is providing transportation to the shelter for anyone who needs it.

The shelter is well stocked with supplies, food, cots to sleep on, and TV to watch.

We also have our CCSD nursing program coordinating with the Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock to handle health concerns; including filling medications — that may have been left back home — and transporting them to the shelter.

CCSD School Board President Lupita White, who represents the greater Newcomb and Naschitti area, and Ms. Bowman met with New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez on the crisis during the Governor's recent visit to the shelter. Ms. White's family was among those who tragically lost their summer home on the mountain to the fire.

I want to thank the New Mexico National Guard for flying the Governor in on Blackhawk helicopter onto the Newcomb High Skyhawk's football field June 17.

The governor, along with Navajo President Ben Shelly and Navajo Vice President Rex Lee Jim, then went to the shelter in the neighboring gymnasium to meet with emergency workers, CCSD staff, and families affected by the fire.

Also present were New Mexico Secretary of Indian Affairs Arthur Allison, the father of Kirtland Central High School Principal Shawna Becenti, and New Mexico National Guard Deputy Adjutant General, Brig. General Juan Griego, as well as other state, tribal, and federal officials.

There's a partnership between CCSD and the Navajo chapters and the Navajo Nation. I have gone to the Naschitti, Newcomb, and Sanostee chapters to let everyone know the shelter at Newcomb High School is there for community members, if they need it.

Everyone needs to help in times of crisis. This District will do whatever we can do to help in this tragic time. We are more than capable of handling whatever comes our way.

Our District is working to raise grades and student test scores, as well as improve graduation rates, as we have stated many times over the years. But our students' welfare, and that of their families and our communities, comes first.

Our Newcomb and Naschitti schools are temporarily closed until the crisis is over due to smoke in the region. Our Newcomb High and Newcomb Middle summer school students will be given an opportunity to finish their classes.


Don Levinski is the Central Consolidated School District Superintendent.