Morning Word

Santa Fe Schools Face Staffing Crisis

NM health officials report 1,025 new COVID-19 cases and 14 more deaths

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 1,025 new COVID-19 cases, underscoring concerns from state health officials earlier this week that the state’s case curve had plateaued and was no longer improving. The case count yesterday was the highest since August, and bring the statewide total so far to 257,970; DOH has designated 228,486 of those cases as recovered.

San Juan County had 237 new cases, followed by Bernalillo County with 212 new cases and Sandoval County with 66. Santa Fe County had 42 new cases.

The state also announced 14 additional deaths, 10 of them recent; there have now been 4,854 fatalities statewide. As of yesterday, 349 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.

Currently, 80.5% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 71.2% are fully vaccinated. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 64.5% people have had at least one dose and 55.4% are fully inoculated. In Santa Fe County, among those 18 years and older, 91.3% have had at least one dose and 81.3% are fully vaccinated.

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

SFPD faces staffing crisis

Almost 200 Santa Fe Public Schools educators and other personnel are considering retiring in the next two years, according to a survey recently conducted by the National Education Association Santa Fe. NEA Santa Fe President Grace Mayer shared the results of that survey at last night’s Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education meeting (right around the 57 minute mark). The survey, which Mayer said included responses from 400 employees, gauged opinions on issues ranging from child care to testing to student homelessness to the cost of housing in Santa Fe. Nearly 200 of those surveyed said Santa Fe’s housing costs—which continue to rise—could keep them from staying here. “I think we need to figure out how we’re going to collectively respond to this crisis,” Mayer told the board. “There’s several [crises], and they’re really impacting our community and our ability to maintain employment with the district.” With schools already facing staffing issues, Board President Kate Noble said she plans to introduce a resolution that will declare the district faces a staffing crisis. “We have to raise the issue as loudly as we can,” Noble said, noting that efforts should include pushing the Legislature and the City of Santa Fe to increase investments in public education and affordable housing, respectively. SFPD’s staffing crisis reflects a statewide problem right now. A report issued this week by New Mexico State University’s Southwest Outreach Academic Research Evaluation & Policy Center confirmed the number of teacher vacancies rose from 571 in 2020, to just more than 1,000 in 2021, a figure the center’s director Rachel Boren described as “staggering.”

Former NM official now lobbies for auto dealers

Former New Mexico General Services Department Secretary Ken Ortiz is now the president of the New Mexico Automotive Dealers Association, and out in front defending a state statute that bans direct sales of motor vehicles. Last month, federal, state and Nambé Pueblo leaders heralded a new partnership between Tesla and Nambé Pueblo, where the electric car company will locate a sales and service center, marking the first agreement of its kind with a tribal nation. The agreement also allowed Tesla to skirt state statutes and work directly with a sovereign nation. As cabinet secretary, Ortiz oversaw the start of the state’s conversion to an electric fleet. In his new role this week, Ortiz published an op-ed asserting dealerships’ support for electric vehicles, as well as their advantages in selling them. “Consumers need dealers now more than ever,” Ortiz writes. “Whenever there is an unforeseen mechanical, software or electrical problem with new vehicles, manufacturers need a well-distributed and educated service-network. The existing dealer community is adequately disbursed and established throughout the state to handle those needs.” Meanwhile, good government watchdogs questioned Ortiz’s swift transition from state official to his new role. “The perception this creates, on the heels of the Tesla deal, is concerning,” Heather Ferguson, executive director of the government accountability group Common Cause New Mexico, said. “Each one of these things chips away at the state’s national reputation as to whether businesses can come in and get a fair shake. It hurts our economy.”

Ride on

The City of Santa Fe and Santa Fe Metropolitan Planning Organization will hold a pop-up event this weekend from 8 am Saturday, Oct. 9, through 4 pm Sunday, Oct. 10 to demo a protected bicycle lane eastbound on Paseo de Peralta from Cerrillos Road to Old Santa Fe Trail. According to a city news release, protected bike lanes “have a physical/vertical separation between the bike lane and car lane. They have been installed in hundreds of cities across the US, but not yet in Santa Fe. This type of bike lane has been shown to improve safety and comfort for all road users and especially bicyclists.” As it happens, the Sunday demo will coincide with the Santa Fe Century race, so there will be lots of bicyclists around (see more info below on the latter in our fall weekend roundup). If you’d like to check out the protected bike lane, you can plan your route using the Bikeways and Trail Map. The MPO also will be collecting data to see how the public responds to the protected lane; you can learn more about the project here. And if that sounds fun, don’t forget it’s Biketober (also known as Santa Fe Bike Month), with lots of ways to spin your wheels all month long.

Listen up

If you haven’t checked out the monthly Nativescape podcast, now would be a great time. As described, Nativescape, presented by the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, features “a collection of narratives from the Native American creative world, focusing on contemporary Native American arts, culture and issues” and aims to “document voices, inspiration, thoughts and ideas of modern day Indian Country.” October’s program features artist, author and educator Shonto Begay (Diné) for a special reading of his 1995 book Navajo: Visions and Voices Across the Mesa(Begay’s show at the Wheelwright closed earlier this month, but you can catch the virtual opening here).

US Mint chooses NM woman for forthcoming coin

The United States Mint announced this week that Adelina “Nina” Otero-Warren, the first Hispanic woman to run for US Congress and the first female superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools, will be among five women recognized in the American Women Quarters Program starting next year and running through 2025. Writer Maya Angelou, astronaut Dr. Sally Ride, first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation Wilma Mankiller and trailblazing Chinese American film star Anna May Wong also will be part of the series. “These inspiring coin designs tell the stories of five extraordinary women whose contributions are indelibly etched in American culture,” United States Mint Acting Director Alison L. Doone said in a statement. “Generations to come will look at coins bearing these designs and be reminded of what can be accomplished with vision, determination and a desire to improve opportunities for all.” The coin depicting Otero-Warren, who was a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage moment, will feature her picture on the left, flanked by three individual Yucca flowers (New Mexico’s state flower). The inscription will read: “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “QUARTER DOLLAR,” “E PLUIBUS UNUM,” “NINA OTERO-WARREN,” and “VOTO PARA LA MUJER,” the Spanish counterpart for the suffragist slogan “Votes for Women.”

Don’t sleep on fall

Just to be clear: Fall is the most beautiful season. And the most brief. Get it while you can, folks, because soon those trees will be bare, the temperatures will plummet and these halcyon days will be but a tender yellow memory…Where were we? Oh yes—the weekend! Saturday and Sunday will be the last chance to catch a ride on the chairlifts to admire the aspens, and then listen to music and drink some beer up at Ski Santa Fe. Don’t want to wait until Saturday to start celebrating? Then don’t: The Santa Fe Brewing Company’s Octoberfiesta kicks off at 2 pm today with live music, raffle giveaways, beer (natch) and a pay-by-donation admission price that will benefit local nonprofits. This week’s SFR Picks has the deets on that event, along with recommendations for Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday, Oct. 11, when there will be plenty of happenings—indoor and out—at both the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts and the Full Circle Farm at Reunity Resources. Need a tiny road trip this weekend? The New Mexico Wildlife Center in Española is hosting an open house from 10 am to 3 pm both Saturday and Sunday offering an opportunity to breathe in the Northern New Mexico fall air and perhaps have a surprise animal encounter. And once you’re there, you might as well keep on driving north to the Abiquiú Studio Tour, ongoing all weekend, to catch some art along with the best scenery the world has to offer. Also, on Sunday, relive the fun of summer in the Railyard as the Santa Fe Century returns for 2021, both starting and finishing for the first time in the Railyard, where you’ll find not just a whole lotta cyclists, but also live music from Gold TidesRumba de Burque and The Sticky Live Funk.

Fall away

Santa Fe should be mostly sunny today and tomorrow with high temperatures in the mid to high 70s, and becoming a bit breezy Saturday afternoon with wind speeds in the 15 to 20 mph-range in the afternoon. On Sunday, the National Weather Service forecasts a dip with a 30% chance for showers and thunderstorms after noon and a high temperature of just 63 degrees. After that? Bundle up, buttercups: Some parts of the state might see their first freeze by Wednesday.

Thanks for reading! The Word returns Tuesday, Oct. 12, possibly with a fistful of fallen leaves. As for today, she plans to spend a few more minutes admiring 480 Otis, winner of this year’s Fat Bear week competition and then catch up on the Bad Art Friend story everyone keeps talking about.

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