As the site of this year’s most contentious school-related battle, District 2—which includes Acequia Madre, Atalaya and Wood Gormley elementary schools, and El Dorado Community School—has produced a crop of impassioned, largely well-informed candidates vying to replace outgoing school board President Richard Polese. Though the current board voted on Jan. 18 to reverse its 2010 decision to consolidate Acequia Madre and Atalaya, the future of SFPS—big schools versus small; accountability versus opacity; sweeping change versus status quo—will hinge on the candidates voters elect Feb. 1.
1. When was the last bond election, and how was the money supposed to be used?
2. Do you favor publishing grades for teachers according to their performances, as the Los Angeles Times did in August 2010?
3. Name two of the ideas Gov. Susana Martinez outlined for improving New Mexico education in her Jan. 18 State of the State speech.
4. What is your greatest strength, either personally or professionally?
5. When was the Battle of Hastings?
6. Santa Fe’s math proficiency is relatively low compared with districts of approximately the same percentage of economically disadvantaged students. Why do you think that is?
45, owner of La Puerta Originals
1. Um, the last general bond obligation was voted on in 2000 and…ah, 2008. Wait. 2008. And it was—2006. And it was a $160 million bond that was presented to the voters to improve, um—make capital improvements to the—district-wide to the schools, and also to build a new school on the south side.
2. No, I’m not. I believe that the results of that had a negative impact on the morale of the teachers in Los Angeles, and I feel like the—the message [was] that grading teachers was more important than actually educating students in California. And I believe the results were punitive. And it doesn’t go for very good morale when you have to be in a position to defend your grade, if you will.
3. Well, the first one was the smarter return on New Mexico’s investment, was to prioritize classroom spending over administrative costs. And that may apply to districts in other parts of the state, and it may be appropriate for that; however, in our district, in Santa Fe, I feel like our administration has done a very competent job of looking at their costs and streamlining their costs that go directly to the classroom. And when you talk about administration, you also need to understand that administration costs also include the cafeteria workers, the facilities and maintenance and custodial workers, the occupational/physical therapists that work with children with special needs and also the enrichment program staff that also works with children who are considered special education, which is also for those kids who are in enrichment programs. You wanted me to name two? Um, the second is the Ready for Success. And I think that that is a good thing, to not promote a child based on their social recommendation to go to the next grade. I feel like if a child cannot pass the grade that they’re in that they should be held back to—to continue to learn in that. And I’ve done that with my own child, so I agree that that is appropriate.
4. I believe that I’m determined and committed to education, and I believe that I have a laser focus on dealing with particular issues and finding solutions for those issues.
5. I’m sorry, the Battle of—? [Hastings.] I don’t know.
6. I believe that Santa Fe is a very unique community with its own set of—of issues, problems. Within the community, there is a population of abject poverty, and there is a population of incredible wealth. And there is a great divide between the—the resources that are available to those people. And I feel like that because Santa Fe is such a unique community with a large Hispanic population, Anglo and then of course the Native American population, that the needs are different in our community. We also have a very low percentage of businesses that actually contribute to the overall economic base of the city, so a lot of that is based on the service industry that we do have. And I feel like that, that is a direct result of—of our not being able to recruit businesses for our city, that we don’t get to benefit for the same amount of tax base that would normally be in a larger type of community, and especially in a community like Rio Rancho, which has a large corporate financial base to draw from.
Donado “Cove” Coviello
1. The last bond election was several years ago, and it was supposed to be used for many different projects that are stated in the strategic plan. I could go through each of the improvements in each of the different schools for its renovations and stuff like that. Do you want specifics on it? [Just give a couple of examples.] Well, um, some of the controversial ones were the Atalaya, um, refurbishing of…Atalaya that was added after the fact, and, uh, some landscaping projects and Chaparral had some in there; Nava had some in there; Capital High had, um, a $4.5 million improvement; and some of the energy packages; and Piñon had a land acquisition package and…
2. No…Do you want me to explain? [Yes, briefly.] Because I believe that the—the methodology for evaluation, although probably not feared by teachers, may not represent their true worth as far as teachers. So I think it’s kind of…prejudicial and a publicity stunt.
3. Well, I think—what I paid attention to was her description of, uh, cutting administrative costs and cutting down the influence of administration…I did not listen to her speech. I was sitting in her office, um, with the receptionist and talking to the receptionist in her office at that time. I tried to get into the gallery and couldn’t find the place to watch it on TV, so I decided to sit in her office and talk to the receptionist and find out more about the governor rather than listen to her speech.
5. The Battle of Hastings! You know…I don’t know, and I really don’t care.
6. Language. [Can you explain?] Yeah…I believe that any form of evaluation, with such a high percentage of either Spanish-only or English-learning, will skew the scores downward as well as the direct correlation between economics and…scores on testings. It’s, it’s a—as a matter of fact, it’s a geometric kind of advantage: For every 1 percent you go down in economics, you go down 1 percent in testing. It’s a clear correlation.
48, works in computer sciences
1. Ah, OK. The last bond election was…was two years ago, 2009, for $160 million; maybe a little bit more than that. And the money is to be used for improvement to Santa Fe Public Schools facilities and constructing new facilities. And, there are also a couple other categories that they can spend the money on—landscaping and I believe some kind of…administration of the construction projects, including software to support that.
2. I would not—you’re talking about the grade—where we come up with a grade for a teacher? I mean, we would never post a student’s grades associated with that teacher but, either way, we don’t have a general enough way of grading a teacher that we could fairly post a single grade for that teacher. And, and teachers are also at different levels of learning their profession in their first two years, and it would be particularly unfair for starting teachers to do that.
3. One of them would be replacing the pass-fail evaluation of schools, through No Child Left Behind, with a grading system—you know, grade A, grade B and so forth assigned to each school. Um…another idea—just a minute; I did read that…because much of it comes from what’s been done in the state of Florida, which they consider to be successful, and several of those ideas are repeated…Another really big one from the Florida approach is if a student in third grade does not meet a specified level of proficiency in reading, then they would hold that student back. It’s also referred to as…stopping social promotion.
4. [Pause] My strength is…that…before I make any decision, I approach, I approach the information I have skeptically, and I ask very careful questions and get clarification and make sure I understand the facts and information, so that I can make a very good decision.
5. The Battle of Hastings?…as in Hastings, England? I guess I don’t know my British history very well.
6. You’re comparing to other schools in the state with the same percentage of economically disadvantaged students? [Right.] Well, there—there’s more to that than economically disadvantaged. I mean, there—we could certainly say that there’s room for improvement in Santa Fe because there absolutely is…but I will add that we have a relatively high level of English-language-learning students; I think it’s about 37 percent of our total population. So in addition to the challenges that come with poverty, we also have a group in the population that is challenged in the language area. We do provide bilingual and dual-language programs for those students, but there is a shortage of bilingual teachers.
1. The last bond issue, for $160 million, was approved by SFPS’ Board of Education in November 2008 and by voters on Feb. 3, 2009. The actual language on the ballot enumerated the following uses for the money:
“(1) erect, remodel, make additions to and furnish school buildings within the district (2) to purchase or improve school grounds (3) to purchase computer software and hardware for student use in public schools (4) to provide matching funds for capital outlay projects funded pursuant to the Public School Capital Outlay Act; or any combination of these purposes.”
2. In August 2010, the Los Angeles Times published “value-added” grades for teachers to show how much a teacher contributed to raising a given student’s standardized test scores. The Wall Street Journal and former Washington, DC, public schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee supported the move, while teacher unions opposed it.
3. Martinez outlined the following ideas:
a) cutting education administration spending by 1.5 percent;
b) assigning letter grades to schools (and posting them online);
c) ending social promotion, which she defined as “the practice of passing children from one grade to the next before they have mastered the basics” (also known as “Ready for Success”).
5. The Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror’s decisive victory in the French invasion of England, occurred in 1066.