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PED conditionally approves plans for Hawthorne Elementary School

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Hawthorne Elementary School’s more rigorous intervention plan has been conditionally approved by the state Public Education Department.

Albuquerque Public Schools submitted a plan for Champion and Provide Choice – which requires the district to provide resources for families to access higher-performing schools – about a week ago.

APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy now has been asked by the department to agree to the conditional approval of the plan, committing APS to six stipulations on next steps for Hawthorne.

“Overall this plan is in a solid place,” said PED Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski.

He said the district’s plan needed refinement in certain areas and that’s why the conditions were added.

APS is still reviewing and did not immediately provide a comment.

One of the conditions focuses on money set aside for improving Hawthorne.

The district requested a total of $853,000 for things such as buses and resources to tell parents about better-performing schools. PED has put in its condition that APS will been allotted the sum they requested but it will come in installments as needed.

That is in place in part so PED can withhold funds if APS doesn’t hold up any parts of the plan, Ruszkowski said. And the condition goes on to say APS must use requested federal funds exclusively for Hawthorne students or transfers.

PED also wants the district to give Hawthorne students the highest priority when transferring.

“Hawthorne students must be guaranteed a seat in a higher-performing school if they are seeking one,” PED wrote in its requirements to APS.

APS’ application addressed this requirement, but stated the district would enforce current policy, which allows students who live in the area of a school with an “F” rating two of the last four school years to request a transfer and have second priority.

But Ruszkowski said those policies need to change to accommodate the kids that want to transfer out of Hawthorne, which has received six consecutive F school grades.

A key aspect of the PED-mandated Champion and Provide Choice is getting the word out to parents about higher-rated schools. In APS’ plan, it outlined the department will do that through letters and the school messaging system.

PED is now requiring the state agency to review those communications before distribution to the Hawthorne community. And the conditions allow for PED to provide additional correspondences to parents too.

There is not a deadline for the district to respond, but Ruszkowski said the expectation and hope is APS will respond as soon as possible.

“If we don’t hear anything, then all options are on the table,” he said.

PED is urging APS to move forward in implementing the early stages of the plan immediately.

Under Champion and Provide Choice, Hawthorne has to get a C grade or better in the school year that just ended or it will move toward closure. And if the school gets another F, the process to close the school is expedited.

On April 27, PED denied APS’ plans to restructure and redesign Hawthorne, which is located at 420 General Somervell NE. Instead, it picked Champion and Provide Choice for the school, citing higher-performing schools nearby as one of the reasons.

PED also conditionally approved restructure and redesign plans for Dulce Independent School District’s MRI school Dulce Elementary. But previously, the district replied with terms of its own. On Thursday, PED denied to alter the plan any further and required Dulce to commit to its conditional approval by Monday.

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