Barbara Gudwin, a New Jersey-born retiree and nonprofit board maven, unseated Martin Lujan from his District 3 post on the Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education in February. Now she faces $4.5 million in budget cuts, possible school closures and a nearly 50 percent dropout rate. SFR spoke to Gudwin by phone from Texas, where she was attending the college graduation of one of her two daughters.
SFR: What do you think of the school board so far?
BG: It’s hard at times, like now, when we’re looking at budget cuts. But it’s also rewarding when we have students and teachers coming before us with their accomplishments.
You’re an optimist.
No, no. I think I’m a pragmatist.
What’s an unpopular position you’ve taken on the board?
When the Alvord Elementary magnet came in front of the board, I recommended that before it come for a final vote, it go back to Alvord for some more work. I don’t know if that was unpopular. [See this week’s Zane’s World for more on Alvord.]
How can you lower the dropout rates with $4.5 million in cuts?
We are trying to address that in part by providing some career tracking where students can start looking beyond high school. What we’re trying to do at Capital High School is develop some career tracks in health. The district would like to develop other career tracks at other high schools—it could be culinary arts; it could be the arts.
Don’t schools have a mission beyond preparing kids for the workplace?
Absolutely. What do you think that role is?
For starters, giving them basic skills in reading, math and critical thinking.
That is a given. A child isn’t going to graduate, even if they focus on a career in culinary arts, if they aren’t making adequate standards.
Do schools today look anything like they did when you graduated?
Sure. They still have marching bands, lots of football teams and basketball teams. I think it’s much harder for students these days. That’s not just a result of what school boards have done; it’s a result of where our culture has gone.
My school didn’t require ID badges.
That’s true. There are schools with metal detectors—not in Santa Fe. There are schools that have police patrolling the hallways, and ID badges, which we do have in our secondary schools here. That’s very, very unfortunate.
Anything you’d like the public to know?
The public needs to be more forthcoming in their support for public education. Legislators don’t operate in a vacuum. They make decisions based on what their constituents want. Education doesn’t come free; it costs money, and this is a very expensive community.
OK, but a lot of local taxpayers are empty nesters.
It doesn’t matter. Who’s going to be their doctors, their nurses, their attorneys? Who’s going to teach their grandchildren? Who’s going to be reporting the news?
Perhaps someone in India.
That’s an issue in our economy. Really, everyone has a stake in education. They may not have a child in the schools, but everyone has a stake.