Now What? Ideas for the Board of Education

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  • 1. NOW WHAT? Santa Fe's best ideas for the new Board of Education  
  • 2. 1. Meet & Greet
    • "Go out to all the public schools and spend time in each one of them (not just the schools that each board member ‘represents.’). Talk with teachers, kids, principals, aides, janitors, bus drivers, etc. Get a feel for the personality of each school."   
    • Heather Karlson , former volunteer coordinator for District 1 board member-elect Steven Carrillo
  • 3. 2. Study Hard
    • "One of the things they will need to do is get themselves as quickly as they can up to speed on budgets , because that will be one of the most important things they have to act on. We will have to have our budget finalized to send to [the New Mexico Public Education Department] in early May."
    • Bobbie Gutierrez , SFPS Superintendent
  • 4. 3. Think Locally
    • "The most exciting thing I heard the candidates discuss (and which is a big idea nationally) is greater school autonomy/site-based management . This, of course, must be coupled with accountability for teaching standards. I think this opens up our schools to be mini-cauldrons of innovation with potential big gains for their students in achievement and exciting programming. Instead of top-down dictates from the administration (you must teach this page in this book on this date) it would put the power into the hands of the principals—the people who are 'closest to the ground'—and the teachers."
    • Julie Murray , treasurer of Carlos Gilbert Elementary's PTK (Parents! Teachers! Kids!)   
  • 5. 4. Expect Excellence
    • "To me, the most important thing the new board needs to do is to set out a vision for SFPS that emphasizes improving student achievement , closing the achievement gap, and improving the graduation rate. This needs to be the overriding goal of the school district and its administration, and the board should set clear and reasonable milestones for the district administration in working toward these goals. Everything that the district does , whether it is developing the budget, adopting new curricula, reconfiguring facilities, etc., needs to be examined and tested against these overriding objectives ."
    • Alan Stanton , Monte del Sol parent
  • 6. 5. Hold a Town Hall
    • "Set up a time at one of the board meetings in the near future (or at all of them) for a dialogue with the community . Perhaps the structure of the "public forum" should be changed so that the board and community members can really communicate during meetings."
    • Heather Karlson
  • 7. 6. Make Parent Involvement Easier
    • "When parents are happy with their school, they’ll give money or raise money. When they feel like they’re getting something, they’re going to want to help support it.... Change the board meeting time from 4:30 to 5:30 or maybe 6:00. To come back into town [for a board meeting] can be quite a trek for some people, so maybe they could take it on the road.  That would send a message to the community that, one, we really want your input; two, we’re going to make sure that we make it accessible to you. That’s huge."
    • Melissa McDonald , Wood Gormley parent and school board campaign worker
  • 8. 7. Stand Up for Santa Fe Schools
    • "The new board will have to have a quick learning curve to understand the budget so that they can make the best possible decisions if there are additional cuts for next year. I've been at the Capitol almost every day following the education budget bill and other bills that relate to funding for education. And it looks like we may have to cut the budget for a third consecutive year—PLANE is advocating to stop the cuts and arguing for a more sustainable funding source for education."
    • Michele Lis , founding member of PLANE (Parent Legislative Action Network for Education)
  • 9. 8. Let the Sunshine In
    • " Place all of the school district's budget data online , including a searchable budget, contracts (i.e. contractors and amounts) and salary information for all school employees. The state of New Mexico created a sunshine portal with this same information this year—so can the district. This is public information and should be made easily accessible to the public without the need for written requests, delays and expenses. Most importantly, this would help to inform the discussion about administrative costs."
    • Fred Nathan , executive director of Think New Mexico  
  • 10. 9. Build Relationships, Not Silver Bullets
    • " All of this is about relationships.  These strong relationships build up between teachers and volunteers, and if there is a specific need the principal will come to my wife... We’re built into the structure of the school in a way that works very closely to try to meet the teachers’ needs. There’s no one answer. Just recognize that every school is different and try...to become part of the institution."
    • Bill Carson , cofounder (with his wife, Georgia) of the Salazar Partnership, a volunteer program that places volunteers at two of the district's most disadvantaged elementary schools, Agua Fria and Salazar
  • 11. 10. Good Schools in Small Packages
    • "Smaller schools can go a long way toward improving the performance of low-income children and narrowing the persistent achievement gap. Last spring, Think New Mexico  proposed an alternative plan, outlined on its website ( www.thinknewmexico.org ), that would have kept open Alvord, Kaune, and Larragoite and redrawn district boundary lines in order to give every child in Santa Fe an opportunity to learn in a small neighborhood school of 400 or less. Consolidation, by removing capacity, simply insures that children on the South side will have to remain in overcrowded schools."
    • Fred Nathan
  • 12. 11. Stop the Buildout
    • " Take a break from new construction projects, with the exception of the projects underway or already approved in previous bond cycles (such as completing Aspen, Gonzales, and Eldorado, etc. and providing the much needed and long awaited renovations to Atalaya)."
    • Heather Karlson
  • 13. 12. Show Us the Money
    • "The current school board doesn’t have to put out what they receive [in campaign contributions]. That builds trust in the community, showing where your money came from."
    • Melissa McDonald
  • 14. 13. Show Us the Bond Money, Too
    • "The last bond cycle generated $160,000,000 of which they have already spent close to $80,000,000...how and where did it all go? which companies got the bids? There is little transparency, and even less oversight. Estimates for repairs or improvements are routinely off by as much as 50% or more....There is a lot of attention on the operating budget for the district, and rightly so, but in the end money is money and the bond money process needs serious reform ."
    • Greg Stier , Wood Gormley parent
  • 15. 14. Cohesive Bonding
    • "Use the bond monies as they were supposed to be used when we voted—[for] needed repairs to Atalaya and Agua Fria.”
    • Amber Jordan , former SFPS parent
  • 16. 15. Fund What Works
    • "The progress attainable by  one-on-one attention cannot be overemphasized. The HOSTS Program has incredible success. It [is] expensive to implement, but it works. Budgets being what they are, the schools need more volunteers in the classroom."
    • Gaye Pollitt , volunteer reading mentor with Cesar Chavez Elementary's HOSTS (Helping One Student To Succeed) for the past five years
  • 17. 16. Give Our Input Meaning
    • "I’d like to see the board determine very soon just exactly how they are going to solicit and take into account community input. And the way they’ve been doing it with these committees that are picked by board members... I don’t think that’s really sufficient at all. I have ideas about having more task forces that report back to the board on subjects with volunteer community members. For example, I think we definitely need one on bilingual education. We definitely need one on teacher morale."
    • Cate Moses , Santa Fe Alliance of Parents for Progressive Leadership in Education (APPLE) and Wikle's partner
  • 18. 17. Test/Retest
    • "I feel they’re really teaching to the test in so many ways. They have the state test and the federal test. Do we really need two tests?  It is true that we rely tremendously on getting federal monies, and if you do not meet the No Child Left Behind Act requirements, I don’t know what would happen in terms of funding. [But] I would prefer to have somebody really saying, ‘This isn’t working.’ I haven’t really heard that from the school board that exists. I really think we have to look at the testing."
    • Melissa McDonald
  • 19. 18. If Knowledge Is Power...
    • "KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) is a network of charter schools that has been extremely successful in dispelling the myth that low-income children cannot achieve at high levels. KIPP has schools in 20 states, but not New Mexico. Why not attract KIPP to Santa Fe by offering them the school buildings that the former school board closed (Alvord, Kaune, and Larragoite) and which are now sitting empty with taxpayers paying to keep the utilities on and the building insured."
    • Fred Nathan
  • 20. 19. Keep the Momentum Going
    • "I’ve worked in a couple other school board campaigns in the last few years, and I felt very excited, more than ever. A lot of people—people who don’t have kids in school anymore—were very encouraged that they got contacted [for the campaign]; they hadn’t been contacted in a while. Really keeping that momentum should be certainly the new school board’s goals— keep the momentum, keep the interest and keep the involvement, in any way possible."
    • Melissa McDonald
  • 21. 20. Be the change...
    • "Be humble, and recognize that change will not happen overnight, but don't lose the vision of the change or reform that you want to see."
    • Heather Karlson
  • 22.  
    • Thanks to all who helped with this story. 
    • If you'd like to stay informed on education issues in Santa Fe, you can join Heather Karlson's email list by sending an email request to [email_address] .