Morning Word

Baldwin Trial Begins

SFPS reports bump in graduation rates

Morning Word

Baldwin case begins

Rust actor Alec Baldwin acted negligently with the gun and failed to perform necessary safety checks on the weapon with former Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed on multiple occasions throughout filming, Special Prosecutor Erlinda Johnson said during yesterday’s opening arguments. Baldwin faces an involuntary manslaughter charge for his role in the Oct. 21, 2021 on-set shooting that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Baldwin was holding a Colt .45 revolver that discharged a live round and killed Hutchins, but he maintains he did not pull the trigger. In response, Baldwin defense attorney Alex Spiro told jurors that while the fatal shooting on set was “an unspeakable tragedy,” the actor “committed no crime” and was simply doing his job. “On a movie set, safety has to occur before a gun is placed in an actor’s hands. The actor’s job is to act and to rehearse,” Spiro said. “He’s Harland Rust—he’s an outlaw. His mind is somewhere else in the being of another, a century away. He must be able to take that weapon and use it, to wave it and to point it in ways that would be lethal in the real world, but not lethal on a movie set.” Following opening statements, the state called several former and current staff from the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department as witnesses, who recounted the day of the shooting and the subsequent investigation. Watch the trial’s first day here.

SFPS reports bump in grad rates

Santa Fe Public Schools’ four-year graduation rate improved by 1% in the 2022-2023 school year, the district reported yesterday, bringing the rate to 83.1%. The specific school breakdown includes a more than 90% graduating rate at Mandela International Magnet School, described as “a substantive increase over 2021-22;” an 88.9% rate at Early College Opportunities High School, an increase of 13.9%; 82.2% at Santa Fe High, an increase of 2.2%; 82% at Capital High School, which represented a “very slight” decrease from the prior year; and a 50% graduation rate at Desert Sage Academy, a 7% decrease from 2021-2022. “SFPS’ overall graduation rate is rising, meaning that more students are graduating ready for college and careers,” Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez says in a statement. “This wonderful achievement is the direct result of teachers’ hard work and dedication in classrooms across the district.” Regarding the specific graduation rates for the district’s high schools, Chavez characterized Mandela and Early College Opportunities’ rates as “nothing short of amazing. Mandela is close to 100% and ECO has grown 14% in just one year. And our traditional high schools are holding steady, with graduation rates near the district’s average. Given its small school size, Desert Sage Academy is an outlier. Our quest is to support each student in becoming an SFPS graduate and crossing the finish line, and we will get there,” he says.

La Familia says staffing, conditions improved

Following successful union negotiations last month, La Familia Medical Center reports ongoing improvements, according to physician and union member Sue Katz, as well as CEO Brandy Van Pelt-Ramirez. Last year, staff balked over working conditions at the Santa Fe clinic, which serves approximately 15,000 mostly low-income and uninsured patients, alongside extreme financial struggles that initially hit after the COVID-19 pandemic. Van Pelt-Ramirez, who became La Familia’s interim CEO after the employees unionized in September 2023 and dismissed the previous CEO, tells SFR the union has “defined the direction La Familia is going in,” and says the collective bargaining agreement “really put things on paper” in terms of salary structure and staff-to-patient ratios. Subsequently, the clinic has made gains filling out its provider vacancies. According to Chief Development Officer Jasmin Milz, La Familia has recently hired four new doctors, a new nurse practitioner and a new psychiatrist. Van Pelt-Ramirez says the clinic is working toward gaining financial sustainability after surviving a funding crisis in November last year that led to the clinic asking for donations to keep the clinic afloat. As of press time, its GoFundMe page reports $200,950 raised of its $1 million goal. “The biggest group of people that came forward the most was our patients, because they’ve been here for years,” Van Pelt-Ramirez says. “Their parents, multiple generations have come here, so we have some patients who give $5 a month, or just as much as they can. Our patients really rallied around us.” The clinic will hold a wellness fair on July 20.

Waldorf advocates pitch charter

More than two dozen parents, teachers and students from the recently shuttered Santa Fe Waldorf School spoke in support yesterday of a plan to create a Waldorf education-based public charter school named the Sun Mountain Community School. Kai Fireheart-Laney, a former Waldorf student who began attending El Dorado Community School after Waldorf unexpectedly announced its closure in 2023, recounted the different experiences she had at Waldorf versus her return to a traditional public education environment. Several former Waldorf parents and teachers in attendance credited the Santa Fe Waldorf School with post-graduation success, citing college and employment opportunities their children received and emphasizing the school’s “holistic approach” to teaching students. While a few Public Education Commissioners expressed support for the Waldorf education model, some voiced uncertainty that the proposed school has adequately demonstrated community support outside of its pre-existing community. In addition, a recent report from an independent peer review team states that out of 51 indicators required to meet the New Charter School Application’s criteria to become a charter school, the Sun Mountain Community School only meets eight; “approaches” meeting 22; and does not meet 21. The report also raises several concerns with the school’s proposed academic, organizational and financial frameworks. Applicants will have a chance to respond to the PEC’s questions at an Aug. 16 PEC meeting at which commissioners will vote on the proposal. If approved, the Sun Mountain Community School would open in the 2025-2026 school year.

Listen Up

Between the International Folk Art Market this weekend and the Santa Fe Indian Market next month (Aug. 17-18), no wonder Cowboys & Indians magazine—among throngs of others—recently crowed about the city’s summer arts scene. But summer isn’t the only vibrant time for the creative economy here. As reported last year, the nonprofit arts and culture industry alone generated $740.9 million in economic activity for the state during 2022. Today’s 8 am episode of KUNM’s Let’s Talk New Mexico on 89.9 FM dives into the state’s arts economy. Have thoughts as either a creator or a patron? Share them by emailing, call in live at 505-277-5866 or record a voice message on the show page.

Ride on

Writer, photographer and Santa Fe resident Bill Becher writes for the New York Times about participating in Santa Fe’s May 50-mile Half-Century, a 50-mile ride that starts in the Railyard and ends at Cafe Fina. Becher, who lost use of his legs 12 years ago when he fell climbing at Joshua Tree National Park and severed his spinal cord, was the only participant riding a handcycle. “Handcycles allow riders to sit or lie on their backs, turn cranks with their hands and propel themselves with arm power instead of leg power,” Becher writes. “My handcycle, a lightweight Swedish model, was equipped with an electric assist motor—essential for people like me who can’t move their legs.” The story, which includes images from Santa Fe-based photographer Kate Russell, describes Becher’s quest to find a way to cycle again after his accident, given the important role doing so had always played in his life. “Handcycling was a way to experience the freedom and adventure that were missing from my life after the accident,” he notes. Signing up for the Half-Century was a way for him to prove he could still do a long ride. Read the rest yourself to hear how the adventure went. Spoiler alert: Prepare to be inspired.

Sharp cookie

On the one hand, summer seems like a strange time to focus on biscochitos; on the other hand, New Mexico’s favorite—and official—cookie cannot be bound by space or time. So says Food & Wine magazine (sort of), which chews on the cookie’s history and ingredients, before offering a delicious list of places to find biscochitos in both Albuquerque and Santa Fe. First, an abbreviated history: Brought to the state by Spanish colonists in the 16th century, where it was then “influenced by Indigenous and Latino cultures.” Ingredients traditionally include lard, anise and cinnamon (though we’ve had them lard-free and thought they were delicious anyway). Celina Aldaz-Grife, owner of Celina’s Biscochitos in Albuquerque, tells the magazine ingredients vary. “It’s how you grew up with it because it’s such a personal thing,” she says. “You see a lot of changes in the cookie over time.” That means some bakers prefer using vegetable shortening, while others delete the anise. “I always tell people it’s more of a feeling than just a cookie for New Mexico,” she says. As for recommendations, Celina’s gets one, and her shop includes flavors such as red chili, green chile, pecan, cocoa and chocolate chip. In Santa Fe, recommendations include: Sweet Santa Fe, Santa Fe Biscochito CompanyPlaza Cafe and the Inn of the Governors, which apparently offers guests a daily sherry and biscochito welcome hour.

The calm after the storm

The National Weather Service forecasts a 40% chance for scattered showers and thunderstorms after noon today (and a 20% chance for more tonight). Otherwise, it should be mostly sunny, with a high temperature near 84 degrees. Nearly 26,000 Santa Fe customers lost power during last night’s storm; among those left in the dark: The Santa Fe City Council, which delayed its vote on a proposed median safety bill to next week as a result. Rain in Ruidoso created more flooding yesterday and prompted an emergency flash flood warning.

Thanks for reading! The Word thinks HD’s “Storm” poem suits last night’s weather.

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