Morning Word

NM Ranked Fifth Worst for Teachers

Feds approve state’s EV charging plan, with $38 mil expected in funding

NM ranks fifth worst for teachers

The Washington, DC-based personal finance website Wallet Hub ranks New Mexico 47th in its analysis of all 50 states and the District of Columbia’s “teacher-friendliness.” That report evaluates states using 24 metrics falling into two buckets: opportunity and competition; and academic work environment. Under those metrics, New Mexico ranked 51st for the quality of its school systems; 31st for pupil-to-teacher ratio; and 33rd for its average salaries for teachers. In March, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation that raises salaries for all tiers of teachers by $10,000, and recently announced measures to reduce teachers’ administrative paperwork. Last week, New Mexico Democrats US Sen. Ben Ray Luján and US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández introduced legislation that would expand federal loan forgiveness for teachers. “Teachers, child care workers and school leaders are faced with high costs of education and the financial burdens that follow, creating hurdles that have only contributed to workforce shortages impacting New Mexico and countless other states,” Luján said in a statement.

On the brighter side, three New Mexico schools received recognition on Friday from the US Department of Education in its 2022 National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, which recognizes schools for overall academic performance and progress in closing student achievement gaps, including Acequia Madre Elementary School in Santa Fe; Albuquerque School of Excellence; and Texico Middle School. “Coming out of a global pandemic with a Blue Ribbon award is an atonishing achievement,” Acequia Madrie Principal Dietger De Maeseneer said in a statement. “It serves as a testimony to the excellence we are committed to at Acequia Madre even during the most challenging of times. Together we stand tall!”

NM slated to receive $38 mil to expand EV charging stations

The federal government has signed off on New Mexico’s plan to develop the infrastructure for electric vehicles in the state, making the state eligible now for funds under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program. That program—part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law—is expected to deliver $38 million to New Mexico over the next five years to build charging networks. According to New Mexico’s plan, as of spring 2022, the state had slightly more than 5,000 electric vehicles registered in 204 ZIP codes—with Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces as the only ZIP code areas with more than 100 registered. That being said, the number of registered EVs has nearly quintupled since the end of 2016. “As a mechanical engineering student in college, I was part of a team that designed and raced a carbon fiber solar car from Dallas to Minneapolis. It’s exciting to see how EV technology has taken off since then—and created new careers,” US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, said in a statement announcing the approval and funding. “This historic funding will build out the first-ever nationwide charging network, accelerate the adoption of EVs to address the climate crisis, and help New Mexico drivers save money.”

SFPD arrests alleged “birthday party shooter”

On Friday, Santa Fe Police announced the arrest of 20-year-old Jonathan Romero of Algodones for his role in the Sept. 11 “birthday party shooting,” in which two adults and three teenagers suffered non-life-threatening injuries as a result of having been shot during a birthday party in the Paseo Feliz area. During the investigation, Romero was identified as having fired multiple shots into a crowd of people at the event. According to a news release, police detectives obtained an arrest warrant for Romero and he was taken into custody by the department’s SWAT team at his residence on Villa Luna in Algodones on Friday morning without incident, after the SWAT team had executed two search warrants—one in Algodones and one in Santa Fe. Romero is being charged with four counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon; five counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon; three counts of abuse of a child; and one count of negligent use of a weapon. The case remains under investigation; SFPD is asking for help identifying anyone who was at the party and may have witnessed parts of or the entire incident: Contact Detective Javier Vigil at or 505-955-5412.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported Sept. 16: New cases: 237; 615,598 total cases Deaths: six; Santa Fe County has had 349 total deaths; there have been 8,515 fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 82. Patients on ventilators: seven; According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent “community levels” map, which updates on Thursdays, all of New Mexico is currently “green,” and has low case and hospitalization rates.Resources: CDC interactive booster eligibility tool; NM DOH vaccine & booster registration; CDC isolation and exposure interactive tool; Self-report a positive COVID-19 test result; Curative testing sites; COVID-19 treatment info. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453.

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

Listen up

All New Mexico reading lists include John Nichols’ iconic novel The Milagro Beanfield War (the first book in his New Mexico trilogy). In his recent memoir I Got Mine, Nichols discusses his long writing career, his connection to the land and the years’ long struggle to make the film version of The Milagro Beanfield War, filmed around Truchas. Report from Santa Fe host Lorene Mills talks with Nichols in the first episode of a two-part interview (the second part airs through tomorrow on New Mexico PBS).

Art patron Virginia Dwan dies

Of her many contributions to the art world, philanthropist, collector and gallerist Virginia Dwan “was probably as happy with the light sanctuary as she was with anything else she ever did,” singer Judy Collins tells The LA Times about The Dwan Light Sanctuary, which opened in 1996 (Collins sang at the opening) on the United World College campus in Montezuma, New Mexico. The sanctuary’s prisms were designed by artist Charles Ross, whom Dwan met in her 20s and subsequently provided funding for his New Mexico “Star Axis” project—”a huge outdoor observatory that he first conceived in the early 1970s and has been working on ever since,” the New York Times writes. Dwan, who ran galleries in both LA and New York, “helped fuel the explosion of artistic innovation of the 1960s and beyond,” and “later enriched the collections of the National Gallery of Art and other institutions with extensive donations from her personal collection.” She died at the age of 90 on Sept. 5 at her home in Santa Fe. The LA Times writes that Dwan was one of the first gallerists to support Land Artists, funding, among other projects, Walter De Maria’s “35-pole Lightning Field,” a precursor to “The Lightning Field” installation in New Mexico. “The wonderful thing about Virginia was that when she got involved in the art, she really got involved in it,” Charles Ross tells The New York Times. “She loved talking with artists about the ideas behind their work.” Dwan also talked about her “life in art” at a 2013 SITE Santa Fe event.

Masters of the universe

Capturing an image of a galaxy requires “planning, powerful instruments, long exposure times and careful processing, arguably presenting some of the toughest technical challenges in astrophotography.” So says the Royal Observatory—part of the Royals Museum Greenwich in London—in its announcement of the winners in the galaxy category of its astrophotography competition. The winners of the nearly dozen categories appear in an exhibition that opened over the weekend at the National Maritime Museum. The winning image in the galaxy category captures the Majestic Sombrero Galaxy, and “shows the faint star streams that were created when a smaller galaxy collided with, and its remnants then began to orbit, the Milky Way,” photographers Utkarsh Mishra, Michael Petrasko and Muir Evenden say. The image was taken in Pie Town, New Mexico. “The Sombrero is a well documented galaxy, yet astrophotographers still find ways to tease more majesty from it,” competition judge Steve Marsh writes. “To see the misty remnants of previous collisions surrounding the galaxy, itself floating alone in the void, is just exquisite.”

Rain returns

Following our sunny weekend, the rain will start to fall again as we inch closer to the Autumnal Equinox. The National Weather Service forecasts a 50% chance for rain today with scattered showers and thunderstorms starting after noon—some of which could produce heavy rain. Otherwise, it will be mostly sunny with a high near 79 degrees and east wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west in the morning.

Thanks for reading! Speaking of galaxies, The Word looks forward to learning if any of the billions of them out there show signs of life.

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