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Acting education boss gets permanent spot

Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Christopher Ruszkowski, acting secretary of education since June, now has the job permanently.

Gov. Susana Martinez announced the appointment Thursday afternoon in a news release posted on her website.

“I’m confident that Christopher will bring the energy, enthusiasm and leadership needed to help New Mexico’s students succeed in the classroom,” Martinez said. “It won’t be easy. There are entrenched special interest groups in New Mexico that are dedicated to maintaining the status quo in education.”

Ruszkowski became acting secretary June 20 when Hanna Skandera unexpectedly stepped down.

He is now technically the secretary-designate – the New Mexico Senate will have to confirm his appointment before he can be considered secretary of education, though the designate has all the same powers.

The Legislature may take up Ruszkowski’s confirmation during its next session, or decide to skip it and allow Ruszkowski to finish out Martinez’s last year and a half in office as the secretary-designate.

A former middle school social studies teacher, Ruszkowski arrived in New Mexico in April 2016 to oversee the Public Education Department’s research agenda, policies and academic priorities, including PARCC testing, school grades and pre-kindergarten.

He previously worked for the Delaware Department of Education under a Democratic governor.

“As a classroom teacher, I understand and have seen that every child can learn – period – and we will remain committed to helping every single student succeed,” Ruszkowski said in a statement. “We will also continue fighting for key reforms – like making sure that kids who can’t read are provided additional help – expanding our teacher leader networks, putting our families in the driver’s seat of their child’s education and giving our students the tools they need to go on and compete in college and the workforce.”

Ruszkowski and the governor believe that state reforms like PARCC, school grades and teacher evaluations are driving improvement, such as a record high 71 percent graduation rate and increasing numbers of A and B schools.

But the state’s teachers unions oppose these policies, claiming they are invalid and unfair to teachers and students.

Stephanie Ly, president of the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico, said the state deserves “better than the lazy reformist sound bites of Christopher Ruszkowski.”

“In his short tenure as interim secretary, we have seen he is just more of the same, choosing to simply parrot the failed policies of Hanna Skandera, and other so-called educational reformers,” she said in a statement.

Ruszkowski has criticized unions as “long on problems and short on solutions.” He has also taken Albuquerque Public Schools to task for not embracing “data-driven” instruction and state reforms.

APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy said she recently met with Ruszkowski and shared the district’s new academic master plan.

“I’d like to congratulate Secretary Ruszkowski on his appointment and look forward to continuing the constructive dialogue we have started,” she said in a statement.

Born in Chicago, Ruszkowski spent three years teaching in Miami and Boston schools through Teach for America, then received a master’s degree in education policy from Stanford University.