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APS, PED still at odds over Hawthorne improvement plan

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Hawthorne Elementary School, a school identified as in need of more rigourous intervention due to six consecutive F school grades, is slated to start class in less than a week.

But what will happen next at the school in northeast Albuquerque is still uncertain.

Hawthorne Elementary School is scheduled to open for classes in less than a week. However, the PED gave APS until July 23 to sign and commit to an improvement plan, something the department says it does not have. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

The district does not have a state-approved improvement plan on file for the school — documentation that was due Monday, according to the state Public Education Department.

In an email dated July 6, PED Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski gave Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Raquel Reedy until July 23 to sign and commit to next steps for the school.

But Reedy wrote to PED before that deadline, telling Ruszkowski she could not accept conditions PED put on the school, which APS staff has told the Journal Ruszkowski hasn’t visited.

PED told the Journal Tuesday that it had not received a signed plan from Reedy and is “deciding on next steps,” according to spokeswoman Lida Alikhani.

What PED will do next is unclear, but the department has said in past letters to APS that it will “select immediate school closure if there is no state-approved plan on file.”

“APS is committed to ensuring that the education of Hawthorne students is not interrupted, marginalized or compromised by political leaders who likely will not be around in a few months to follow through with proposed drastic changes that could include closing the school … It is unfair to place some of our most vulnerable families in educational limbo,” APS said in a statement.

A possibility of closure is one of the main reasons Reedy didn’t sign, said APS Board of Education President David Peercy.

“We will not sign anything that implies we would close Hawthorne. That wasn’t part of any plan or the original conditions set by PED,” he wrote in an email to the Journal. “Our plan for Hawthorne is solid and we intend to implement it. We have answered all the conditions posed by the PED.”

PED has stipulated Hawthorne will move toward closure in the 2020-21 school year unless it gets a C grade or better in the 2017-18 school year. That stipulation was also included in PED’s letter to APS in April and May.

School grades for last school year have not been released yet.

Reedy said in her letter that she sent another proposal for the school in June but never heard back from Ruszkowski.

“In the event that the June 22, 2018 proposal is not acceptable, you will leave APS no option but to seek legal clarification of the validity of the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act, and your authority to close Hawthorne absent concurrence of APS,” she wrote.

PED sent Reedy a reply Monday — the due date — saying it had considered APS’ proposal but still required her to sign the conditional approval as is.

The district is considering its options, according to its statement.

“Which include reviews of a pending lawsuit over the state’s teacher evaluation system as well as the recent judge’s ruling that New Mexico has not been meeting its constitutional obligation to provide a sufficient education for all students — especially those characterized as at-risk students like the ones served at Hawthorne,” the statement concluded.