Morning Word

NM Unveils $37 Million Teacher Recruitment Plan

Native American groups finalizing redistricting proposals

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials on Friday reported 885 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of cases to 239,886. DOH has designated 207,608 of them as recovered. Bernalillo County had 160 new cases, followed by Lea County with 103 and Doña Ana County with 100. Santa Fe County had 22.

The state also announced 20 additional deaths, 18 of them recent; there have now been 4,605 total fatalities. As of Friday, 370 people people were hospitalized with COVID-19—27 fewer than the day prior. DOH is expected to provide a three-day update on COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations this afternoon.

Currently, 78.5% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 68.7% are fully vaccinated. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 61.8% people have had at least one dose and 50.3% are fully inoculated. In Santa Fe County, among those 18 years and older, 89.7% have had at least one dose and 79.2% are fully vaccinated.

And, ICYMI, New Mexico emergency physician Clayton Dalton wrote recently for the New Yorker about seeing increasing numbers of unvaccinated people in the ER where he works. The essay, “Why the COVID vaccines aren’t dangerous,” recounts that while some of those patients haven’t been vaccinated for reasons that are “weird or conspiratorial,” many have concerns about adverse effects, which Dalton then goes on to explain and provide explanations. “Many months into the vaccine rollout, in the midst of the Delta wave, it’s tempting to assume that positions have hardened, and that no one is capable of changing his or her mind,” Dalton writes. “But it’s not too late, and it’s important to keep telling people not just that the vaccines are safe but why they are safe. Recently, I explained all of this to my reticent family members on the phone, and urged them to consider getting their shots. They said that they’d think about it. A few days later, they texted to say that they were leaning toward vaccination.”

You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.

NM to use $37 mil to address teacher shortage

Santa Fe Public Schools has spent most of the $2.6 million it received from the state Public Education Department as a portion of federal pandemic funding. PED late last week launched an interactive dashboard that displays cumulative and individual data on districts and state charter schools use of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. New Mexico received more than $108 million and awarded 90% in the form of sub-grants to school districts and state charter schools. Cumulatively, districts spent the most funding on education technology. In the case of SFPS, the district has so far spent close to 70% of its allocation on “activities to maintain continuity of service,” a category that includes purchasing PPE for students and staff. According to a news release, districts and state charters have until Sept. 30 to use CARES Act funds, and the dashboards will be updated as new data is collected on the first and 15th of each month. Approximately 7% of the SFPS funding remains.

PED also announced it will be using $37 million federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to create a new Educator Fellows Program, intended to address the state’s teacher shortage by recruiting and retaining teachers assistants. “Our goal is to create one of the nation’s best educator ecosystems,” Public Education Secretary Designate Kurt Steinhaus said in a statement. “This program can serve as a pathway for more people to enter the education profession.” School districts and state-chartered schools have until Sept. 20 to apply to participate. Those chosen will receive grants to cover: an educational assistant’s full salary plus benefits; a $4,000 stipend to support each fellow’s postsecondary education; all licensure and background fees. As of last year, New Mexico had 889 educator vacancies, 571 of which were for teachers.

Native Americans finalizing redistricting proposals

Native American communities are finishing up proposed redistricting maps, which they say may be ready for submission as early as this week. Once finalized, the maps will be submitted to the seven-member Citizen Redistricting Commission—which has been criticized for lacking Native American representation—whose duties include reviewing and vetting the citizen maps in advance of submitting them to the Legislature. According to Census data, New Mexico has 23 federally recognized tribes, with 12.4% of residents identifying as Indigenous. Lawyer Joseph Little, who is working with Native American communities on the redistricting effort, says those census figures play an important role in translating redistricting principles into actionable decisions, and organizers were waiting on them. “It’s important that we get these maps in early,” he says, but “we didn’t have the census numbers until recently.” State Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque, a member of Acoma Pueblo, on Friday acknowledged the tribal communities’ engagement in the redistricting process. “In New Mexico, I think we’re very fortunate, where the tribes are very active in looking at how we can ensure that we’re involved in the process about selecting our own representatives that will then hold the state accountable,” she said. The Citizen Redistricting Commission is currently holding statewide meetings on the process, and accepting both maps and comments online.

Blood shortage

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a national shortage of blood, which has unfortunately coincided with an increased need for blood, according to a news release from the state departments of health and homeland security and emergency management. “And in recent months, a series of hurricanes, large-scale wildfires and other extreme weather have forced blood donation groups to cancel hundreds of additional donations events, though these disasters make the need for blood products even more urgent,” the news release notes. Thus, both departments will continue partnering with nonprofit blood services provider Vitalant to host close to 300 blood donation events across New Mexico between now and Oct. 7. “Working in emergency management, one of my first thoughts when I see a major disaster is that I hope and pray that local hospitals have all the supplies they need to perform live-saving operations,” DHSEM spokesperson Brian Sayler said in a statement. “No amount of time and money can replace our supply of donated blood—the victims of these disasters rely on all of us to donate when we can.” Schedule an appointment online or call 505-246-1457. Donations of Type 0 blood are “especially urgent,” according to a Vitalant spokesperson.

Listen up

The New Mexico Humanities Council kicks off the September programming for the Augmented Humanity podcast with “I Sing the Body Electric,” a conversation with composer, musician and sound artist Holly Herndon about Holly+, a machine learning tool that allows users to upload polyphonic audio and receive a download of that music sung back in Herndon’s processed voice. Hosts Ellen Dornan and Craig Goldsmith also speak with Herndon’s collaborator, Mat Dryhurst, a musician, researcher and artist who teaches at New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Music, Strelka Institute and the European Graduate School.

Computer legend

If you’ve never heard of Alvy Ray Smith, chances are you’re not alone. Wired magazine describes him in a recent feature as “the little-known genius who helped make Pixar possible.” The “the bearded, boisterous Pixar cofounder,” Wired writes, owed something to LSD in his “creative direction,” which “in turn shaped both Pixar’s culture and its technology.” And while Smith left Pixar before it started making films, “every frame of those films owes something” to him. Smith, 77, a New Mexico native, produced what the magazine characterizes as a “grand unified theory of digital expression” in his new book, published last month: A Biography of the Pixel. That history of computer graphics dovetails with Smith’s own biography, which was heavily influenced by his upbringing in New Mexico, starting with his recollection, at age 2, of hearing the explosion from the 1945 Trinity atomic bomb test 100 miles away from his home in Las Cruces. Scientists at White Sands Missile Range sparked his “taste” for computer programming, and he studied electrical engineering at New Mexico State University before heading to Stanford to study artificial intelligence. “In the next year, my hair was down to here, and I was hanging out in Golden Gate Park and doing all the drugs and every­thing,” he says. After he took LSD, he realized “I could not be a programmer—I had to do something that had art in it.” The story that ensues ends with some believing Smith’s contributions haven’t been fully recognized: “As far as history goes, I feel like he got shafted, both in Pixar history and in computer graphics history in general,” Pam Kerwin, a former Pixar colleague tells the magazine. “Everything that you currently use in Photoshop right now basically came from Alvy.”

Remembering the dead

Santa Fe development doesn’t just impact the living.The dead also “are at the mercy of encroaching development. They are often not planned for, very often not looked for, and too often afforded little protection.” So writes archaeologist Alysia L. Abbott, who has been researching Santa Fe’s historic burial grounds for a decade, in the fall edition of El Palacio magazine. “A Hidden History of the Dead” posits that finding the “Historic lost dead of Santa Fe” is crucial because “they can teach us about our history and we can protect them from ourselves.” Moreover, “in Santa Fe, to find the lost dead of the last 400 years, all you have to do is look.” The story both explores how burial grounds have been lost, as well as possible places in which to find them, including a map showing the locations of known and hidden burial grounds. Abbott also touches on the devastating history of boarding schools for Indigenous youth, now the focus of a federal review announced in June by US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “Santa Fe has been home to boarding schools for Indigenous children and for the hearing impaired,” Abbott writes, and shares the history of one of the city’s earliest and most controversial: the Ramona Indian School, founded circa 1884. “The recent discoveries in Canada of hundreds of graves at the sites of residential schools are horrifying—but unfortunately not surprising, and certainly not isolated,” Abbott notes. “As awareness grows and research is focused on finding them, more lost children’s graves are certain to be found.”

High and dry

While the forecast remains dry, the daytime high temperatures should come down a bit today compared with the weekend. According to the National Weather Service, Santa Fe is looking at another sunny one with a high near 84 degrees and east wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon. Looking ahead, temps should remain in the low 80s and high 70s this week.

Thanks for reading! The Word found this New York Times story about Lindsey Buckingham that rehashes all of Fleetwood Mac’s drama a highly entertaining read and a nice distraction from the truly dire state of the world (particularly the more than 350 avid comments it inspired from readers).

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at] Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.