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Struggling schools get new principals

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Three new principals who are taking the reins at poorly performing elementary schools were introduced to Albuquerque Public Schools board members Tuesday during a meeting of the Policy and Instruction Committee.

They are César Hernández at Los Padillas, formerly assistant principal at Albuquerque High School; Kimberly Finke at Whittier, previously the principal at Gallup High School; and Judith Martin-Tafoya at Hawthorne, previously the principal at Truman Middle School and an APS interim principal.

Los Padillas, Whittier and Hawthorne elementary schools each received failing grades from the state Public Education Department, getting them placed on PED’s list for “more rigorous intervention,” or MRI.

The options available to APS were to close the schools, turn them into charter or magnet schools, or redesign them and turn the schools around in accordance with the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan. APS chose the redesign option.

On Tuesday, committee members received an update from associate APS Superintendents Antonio Gonzales and Gabriella Blakey. They explained the redesign would involve turning the schools into “community” schools, partnering with the city and county, and using resources such as community centers.

The plan is based on four pillars: integrated student support, expanded learning times and opportunities, family and community engagement, and collaborative leadership and practice.

Specifically, the redesign plan calls for:

• Early childhood programs for 3- and 4-year-olds to jump-start education prior to kindergarten.

• Dual language at Los Padillas and Hawthorne, where kids will be instructed half of the day in English and half of the day in Spanish, giving them an edge when they go to dual language-supported middle schools.

• Improved technology and tech instruction to fill in the gap for kids who don’t have access to computers and other technology at home.

• And a “genius hour” extension of the school day by one hour, which will be academic based but also incorporate creative activities that students can’t do during the normal school day.

Teachers will receive a stipend for working an extended school day, though they will be allowed to opt out and be reassigned to other APS schools as positions become available.

The full APS board will vote next week to accept the redesign plan and submit it to PED, which is expected to accept or reject the plan by mid-March. If accepted, the new plan will be paid for by federal Title I money that comes through PED.

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