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‘Breakthrough year’ for schools close at hand

November 13, 2018

Seldom is news made at an annual speech where the state of X is discussed — whether it be the nation, the state, the city or, most recently in Santa Fe, the state of the Santa Fe Public Schools.

Instead, citizens receive an accounting of what is taking place. That’s much appreciated, considering the millions of dollars that such things as schools and cities cost taxpayers. And giving an accounting is just what Superintendent Veronica García did last week, updating parents, school staffers, board members and the community on the state of the public schools.

She did something more, too, promising that the hard work of improving fundamentals that has been occurring is going to mean a significant improvement in our schools. She didn’t fudge or equivocate. Her message was clear — schools are improving, and starting with the next round of measurements, the community will see the results.

She called this Santa Fe’s “breakthrough year.”

We’ll have to wait and see, of course, but García’s words are encouraging. Not because we put so much stock in the results of standardized tests, but because we have seen the hard work and dedication up close. We also know that our success as a state and community depends not just on what is happening in schools but also on people’s perceptions. Both need a boost.

New Mexico, as we all know, has schools that perform poorly on a number of measures designed to show how kids are learning. For our children to grow up and have successful lives, ones in which they reach their dreams and contribute to our society, schools have to improve. That means more kids reading at grade level, understanding mathematics and science and graduating on time and ready for life or college.

At the same time, we disagree with the too-often negative comments about schools. In our schools, students and teachers work hard every day and have many successes to show for that dedication. Santa Fe public school graduates are in Ivy League schools. They are at state schools taking home prizes and making the Dean’s List. They are in the bigger world and in our town as successful adults, working to make the world a better place. And guess what? Those adults learned many of the skills they are using today as public school students in Santa Fe.

At the event, work by students was on display — a focus on the arts. Drawings, paintings and mixed media were displayed — a show of talent and creativity. There was singing and dancing from students — including ones from Acequia Madre, Tesuque, Ramirez-Thomas and Mandela International Magnet schools.

The achievements of those students are real, whether in art or academics. And even if they want to do better — and will do better in the future — we must never forget to congratulate them for today’s successes especially when viewed in light of the most eye-popping statistic that Garcia shared.

Every day, the Santa Fe Public Schools serves 11,228 meals.

Of those, 9,685 meals go to students who are receiving free or reduced meals, a nice way of saying they are poor.

Many of those children also go home on weekends and at night with backpacks full of snacks, so they aren’t hungry at home. Others lack permanent homes and sleep on the couches of friends or family, in shelters or even cars. They come to school less prepared than middle-class or affluent children, and catching up can sometimes take a few years.

Through all of that — through real and pressing challenges — the administrators, principals, teachers and staff at our public schools never quit believing that all children can learn. All children will learn. That’s the state of the schools, circa 2018.

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