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‘A decade of work’

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Leticia Cuevas, a Coronado Elementary kindergarten teacher, conducts a lesson recently for her students. The Downtown magnet school, which has just achieved national certification, focuses on bilingual education. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Hanging on the media building at Coronado Elementary School is a prominent navy and gold emblem – clearly marking a distinction of some kind.

It hangs proudly above the sports court as kids play, catching a passerby’s eyes and representing a decade’s worth of work.

That emblem is the Magnet Schools of America national certification seal.

As principal Nathaniel Kuster notes, it’s a source of pride for the Coronado Caballeros, especially because Coronado was the first school in the state to get the certification, according to Albuquerque Public Schools.

The school had to go through an application process that requires proof of any accolades claimed and a review to make sure schools meet expectations, such as community partnerships, academic excellence and innovative curriculum. There’s also a $1,395 fee.

The recognition is billed as a way to honor “the best of the best.”

Deborah Elder, the executive director of the Office of Innovation and School Choice, said Coronado is a model for others as the district is aiming to eventually get all of its magnet schools the national honor.

Elder said that of more than 4,000 magnet schools nationwide, about 115 have the national certification.

“It is a very high-level distinction,” she said.

bright spotShe said the process was intense, because every aspect of the school was evaluated, from the curriculum to teaching to academic achievement. She said the application also takes a lot of introspection on the school’s part on how to keep improving.

The difference between a magnet school and traditional neighborhood schools, Elder said, is that magnets have a theme or focus ranging from STEM to arts integration. And magnets also aim to spur enrollment, diversity, and innovative teaching and learning.

Coronado, near Fourth and Iron in Downtown Albuquerque, launched as a magnet school in 2009. It operates with a dual-language focus as its theme, which guides all the workings at the school.

There are about 300 kids in kindergarten through fifth grade, according to Kuster.

This marks the first full school year with the distinction, which was officially awarded last fall. The certification lasts four years.

Kuster, in his second year as principal, said the Magnet Schools of America application process occurred under former principal Anna Marie Ulibarri.

His goal will be to maintain her work and build on it.

“(The certification) is recognizing the strength of the program as it already exists in order to get the certification. But once you’ve established the strength of the program, you have to stay that strong or stronger,” he said.

Elder noted the recognition didn’t happen overnight. It was a result of efforts put in place since the school opened as a magnet.

“The award is a reflection of a decade of work,” she said.

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