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APS: Hawthorne school’s fate on hold for judge

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque Public Schools will wait for a judge to determine if the state education department is overstepping its authority before it decides what will happen next at Hawthorne Elementary School.

Hawthorne, which was designated as in need of more rigorous intervention by the state after it previously earned six F grades, does not currently have a Public Education Department-approved plan on file, which Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski says it must under the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan.

But it doesn’t appear that’s changing anytime soon.

PED told the Journal closure at the end of this school year is still on the table for Hawthorne if APS does not commit to Hawthorne’s improvement plan.

In the most recent development of a nearly nine-month long process, APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy told the PED that she will remain staunch in her position not to sign the state-approved improvement plan for the school, which included a school-closure stipulation if Hawthorne didn’t improve.

“I will resist any attempt to compel APS to agree to close a school based on the Value Added Model, a school based grading system that is not transparent and that many believe is a flawed methodology,” Reedy wrote in a formal letter to PED.

However, two other MRI schools in the district – Los Padillas and Whittier elementaries – also face closure in the future if they don’t improve, which Reedy agreed to.

In the 2017-18 school year, Los Padillas and Hawthorne jumped to a C grade, while Whittier earned a seventh F in a row.

Ruszkowski said “the district is talking out of both sides of their mouth” because he says it has changed the reasons it won’t agree to the plan for Hawthorne.

APS did not reply to the Journal’s request to speak with Reedy.

Reedy told Ruszkowski in the letter that APS will wait for a judge to determine if PED is acting out of bounds, referencing an appeal the district filed earlier this month that questioned Ruszkowski’s decisions at the school.

“As you are aware, APS has requested that a judge determine the validity of the state’s ESSA plan and your authority to close Hawthorne … I believe it is in our best interest to allow the legal process to proceed before APS makes a decision on Hawthorne’s future,” Reedy wrote.

Ruszkowski told the Journal the appeal hasn’t affected the PED’s next moves at the school and said he will continue to ask Reedy to agree to the state-approved plan for Hawthorne.

He also said closure can still happen at the end of this school year if Reedy declines again, but he did not say when that would be decided.

The letter also highlighted Reedy’s initiatives and areas of focus she’s implemented district wide.

“I am convinced that APS is on the right track. We need time to fully implement these initiatives without changes dictated by PED,” Reedy wrote.

The letter comes after PED’s third request to get Reedy to agree to a “champion and provide choice” option for Hawthorne, which requires APS to provide information to families about higher-performing schools and to accommodate any transfers.