On Jan. 22, (Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque) wrote a letter to (Public Education) Secretary-Designate Christopher Ruszkowski about several points I would now like to respond to. I have been a teacher for over 15 years, and my “utter displeasure” of the lack of professionalism by her and some of her colleagues increased ten-fold. The first I had heard about this comment was brought up at a budget meeting; unprofessional. At that same meeting Lopez actually said she and some others took bets before the hearing to see if the Secretary would even show up: unprofessional. I am embarrassed that our state and children’s education is run by people like her. Just like the comment made by Sen. (Mimi) Stewart, D-Albuquerque, that our kids have no skills except for street-fighting skills. Why should teachers support her?
Regarding the famous (Manifest Destiny) “comment,” Ruszkowski has apologized to those he needed to apologize to. He has made personal apologies to tribal leaders. Enough is enough. Lopez continues to beat a dead horse into the ground with this. She and her colleagues continue to use one statement for their political agenda, and there is not time for that in education. We do not care about their politics; we care about the leadership that Ruszkowski has brought to the PED and the encouragement and backing he gives to teachers. The changes he has made are necessary for New Mexico to become an educational leader in the United States and the world. Our state has always been behind the times with education. It is going to take a lot of hard work to get where we need to be. But that is even more difficult when politicians have their own agenda.
Negativity is an easy train to jump on and take a vacation. I simply do not understand how, as a leader of this state, Lopez and her colleagues do not work with what the PED and the teachers of this state are trying to do to further the educational growth of all of our students. They are also making teachers’ voices stronger, which will only result in better education for all of our children.
Let’s look at some of the positive things that happened in 2017:
• Improved student outcomes, at scale.
• Thousands more students reading and doing math at grade-level, tens of thousands more students are in A/B schools, record-high graduation rate, and double the number of students taking AP exams.
• Principals Pursuing Excellence and Teachers Pursuing Excellence programs for those in struggling schools so they can jump the hurdle into the 21st century and help students and teachers be successful.
• Celebrating success in our schools through the Straight A Express tour. Teacher leadership opportunities; STA, NMTLN, Teacher Summit, Secretary Teacher Advisory, and Academic Parent Teacher Teams, to name a few.
• Policy revisions made possible in partnership with the PED and Teach Plus.
• Shorter PARCC exams and more teaching time,
• NM-STEM Ready standards and new art standards.
• More than $40 million in new federal grant funding.
• Strengthening the charter school sector so that those students in these schools will be held to the high standards of all students.
• New Mexico’s state plan ranked No. 1 under ESSA.
I am a National Institute of Leadership graduate. I studied high-performing educational systems for a year. Many of the changes coming from the PED follow parts of these programs. With that being said, you CANNOT just take a system and embed it into the American system because all cultures are different. Also, until politicians decide to give teachers the pay they deserve and treat teaching as a profession and make parents responsible for their children’s learning, we will continue to be behind in the world.
Finally, even though I may not agree with everything that comes down from the PED, I have full confidence in the leadership Secretary-Designate Ruszkowski gives teachers and our profession. It is my hope that he will be confirmed as he is the best thing that has happened for the teachers and education in our state for a very long time.