Of the three candidates vying to represent District 1 (Santa Fe High School, Capshaw Middle School; and Chaparral, EJ Martinez and Piñon elementary schools) on Santa Fe Public Schools' Board of Education, none bothered to hide their mild trepidation at being interviewed for SFR's Pop Quiz feature, a test for which there are no do-overs.

"I remember the first time I ran," current District 1 Board Member Mary Ellen Gonzales writes in an email to SFR. "You asked a math question, which I answered with the comment, 'I hope I am right! My son will never let me forget if I'm wrong.'"

Unfortunately, she answered incorrectly—"and boy, did I get ribbed," Gonzales confesses.

On this year's quiz for candidates vying in the Feb. 1 election, Gonzales and her peers deserve at least half-credit for math acumen. Read more Pop Quiz questions and answers here.


1. Approximately how many students attend school in your district?

2. What is the graduation rate of Santa Fe High, and what, if anything, would you do to improve it?

3. Who is your educational hero?

4. What is the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo? 

5. When was the Battle of Waterloo?

6. If x2 = 25, what is x? 

7. SFPS has said that, in these economic times, it needs more community involvement and even funding—but at the same time, information on school budgets, performance and capital projects is often hard to find. What, if anything, would you do to improve the district’s transparency?


Steven Carrillo

50, “between careers” but working as a server at the Cowgirl
1. If we were to include the high schools…guess that’s 1,000…I’m doing this in my head right now…six, five, four and three, that’s 18, plus 15—I would say about 3,100.

2. [Laughs] It's not what it should be and, to improve it, one of the first things is really getting kids engaged in school and helping them understand not only their income potential, but I would say their happiness potential if they did graduate. So the cohort graduation rate for Santa Fe High is up close to 60 percent.

3. My educational hero? Mrs. Loftus, my eighth-grade algebra teacher at John Burroughs junior high in Los Angeles. And she was probably a late-60s, very petite Irish woman with bright red hair, and extremely demanding and unforgiving and made us work really hard and memorize all the different formulas we needed to memorize and just, um, took no prisoners. And she was an inspiration for how I think things can be done and to inspire kids and to have kids know what they're capable of learning.

4. I have no idea.

5. [Laughs] All these things—I'm 50! That was a long time ago! I don't know.

6. If x2 = 25, then x = 5.

7. Make everything available on the SFPS website and not—not just make it available, but make it easy to search. I mean, it's one thing to post documents but not allow people to have the search mechanism to find what it is they're looking for. I think that's what's really missing and, as a board member, I would want complete transparency related to all budgets and expenditures and, um—I mean, that's the only way that we can restore the credibility and trust of the board and the administration.

Mary Ellen Gonzales

65, current SFPS board member
1. Oh, wow, how many students? Let’s see. Well, there’s about 1,600 at Santa Fe High and 440 at Chaparral, which brings it up to 2,040, and 500 at Piñon, which brings it up to 2,540 and…probably another 500 at—can I write this down? ’Cause I can’t remember. Let’s see. So I’ve got 1,600 at Santa Fe High; I’ve got 440 at Chaparral; I’ve got 500 at Piñon; I’ve got about 500 at Capshaw, and I’ve probably got about 400 at EJ. So that’s 1,000—2,600—and that would be about 3,500—3,400 to 3,500.

2. OK, the graduation rate of Santa Fe High is…let me see. I think it's 62 percent or something like that. Um, and what would I do to—um, let's see. Santa Fe High, Santa Fe High—think, Mary Ellen! Think, think, think, think, think. Are you talking about an event rate, or are you talking about a cohort rate? [The four-year cohort rate.] OK. About 60 percent—yeah, yeah, 60, 62 percent. It's the event rate that I don't have memorized, because I—and what would I do to improve it?
I think what we need to do to improve the graduation rate in both high schools is to start in kindergarten, doing some very serious life skills training. And we can—you can do that by having kids read. Um, but conflict resolution, time management, self-understanding—all that sort of thing we're not doing. And so I would say that extending the services of our Office of Student Wellness and the kind of things [SFPS Counseling Coordinator] Kate Greenway does—we just need to do a lot more of it.

3. Ooh, my educational hero...wow. Um, it's a lady you've probably never heard of, and she died about seven or eight years ago, and her name was Paula Underwood. And she founded an educational program that was determined by the United States Department of Education to be an educational program that works. And it's based on Iroquois precepts. And the idea is that we are all learning all the time; the question is, what are we learning? And so you—boy. It's a whole different world. I can't go there with you because I don't have time. But her name is Paula Underwood; she's my educational hero.

4. The Democratic Republic of Congo? Kinshasa. No, it's not Kinshasa. I don't know. I'm gonna have to take a—I'm gonna have to take a goose egg on that one.

5. Waterloo, that was Napoleon. And, uh…so that was probably…it was in the early 1800s, so this would be early 19th century…I'm going to say 1820.

6. Five.

7. The first thing is to improve the website. And I know that over the Christmas holidays we rolled out a new website. And frankly, I've spent some time on it. What's there is great. You can find out everything you wanted to know about school performances and how students are perf—all the different subgroups and all that kind of stuff. That's wonderful. The budget information, as I said, is difficult to understand if you can find it at all. Um, so I—I know that I'm—it's—either has been or it's going to be reported pretty soon: I'm 65—yay! I qualify for Medicare—and I know that most people my age aren't really all that computer literate, and I certainly am not that computer literate, but I think the computer and the internet is the way to go. That's where it ought to be, and the thing we really need to have—we need to have a really complete website, and we need to have an excellent search feature on it.

Carl Luff

56, financial adviser and Certified Public Accountant
1. Approximately, I guess, would be about 2,500.

2. The graduation rate of Santa Fe High is about 62 percent. I would again work to improve teacher performance, professional development, parental involvement and also just by working to have better elementary schools and feeders, um, we can—we can improve our high schools.

3. Good question. You caught me off guard on this one. I think it would be my baseball coach from high school. [Would you elaborate on why?] Oh, just leadership, and…he was a tough guy, but fair.

4. [Laughs] Can I call a friend on this one?…I don't know.

5. How about a shout-out? Um…Let me guess. It would probably be…1842.

6. Five.

7. I believe that the committee structure for the district needs to improve, whether they be ad hoc committees or standing committees, to get more community involvement. I also believe that the process needs more transparency as far as budgeting the financial side so that—and—and also trying to simplify financials so that more people can understand and read financial statements.

Answer Key

1. Approximately 3,355 students attend school in District 1, according to numbers available on Santa Fe Public Schools’ website, sfps.info.

2. In 2009-10, according to the school report card available on SFPS’ website, Santa Fe High School’s four-year graduation rate cohort was 61.97 percent. Taking into account students who graduate in five years, total graduation rates could be higher but were not available for 2010.

4. Kinshasa is the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

5. The Battle of Waterloo took place on June 18, 1815.

6. If x2=25, then x = 5 and -5.