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Candidates Debate Achievement Gap

The achievement gap and charter schools were flash points Thursday at a forum for candidates running for the school board.

Ten candidates are vying for four seats on the board. The election, which will include the board seats and a capital funding question, will be held Feb. 5. Early voting begins today.

Responding to a question about why Anglo students achieve at higher levels than their Hispanic counterparts, several board members pointed to family involvement and difficult home lives for students from lower-income groups. Other candidates blamed the system.

The Albuquerque Teachers Federation announced its school board endorsements Thursday. The union is endorsing Lorenzo Garcia in District 3, Paula Maes in District 6, and David Peercy in District 7. The District 5 race is uncontested.

Don Duran, who is running in a four-way race for the District 6 seat in the East Mountains, said the system alienates parents who are poor or Hispanic.


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“As an educator I heard all the time, ‘Those parents don’t care.’ That’s racism. I have never, ever met a parent who did not care,” Duran said. “I have met parents who do not have skills to understand how the system works.”

Duran has worked in education in New Mexico for decades, and was most recently an assistant secretary of education for charter schools during former Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration. He is running against incumbents Paula Maes and David Robbins, who now live in the same district due to redistricting, and Angela Gonzales Carver.

Maes, Robbins and Gonzales Carver pointed to poverty and family struggles as reasons for the achievement gap, saying it is less about race than about income. Gonzales Carver said closing the achievement gap would require schools to become more family-friendly, and the community to work together to fill students’ basic needs. She spoke of students she encountered as a substitute teacher who came to school hungry, without having slept or bathed.

“Student success doesn’t start at the school, it starts at home, and that’s the bottom line,” she said. “We need to start helping our families create successful students.”

A question about how candidates would help students who feel marginalized at school morphed into a conversation about charter schools. Duran and Steven Michael Quezada, who is running unopposed in District 5 on the West Side, voiced strong support for charters and challenged APS for not being more supportive of them.

Candido Arturo Archuleta Jr., who is running in a three-way race for District 3 in the North Valley, said APS should be partners with local charter schools.

“We need to develop better relationships with the education community in Albuquerque,” he said. “This notion that it’s the public school APS versus the charter schools that are also public schools … that’s just wrong.”

Archuleta is running against incumbent Lorenzo Garcia and Leah Persons, who both addressed the question about marginalized students differently.

Garcia spoke about the importance of training all staff to teach students who are learning English and to deal respectfully with families from other cultures. Garcia often speaks in board meetings about the importance of having Spanish speakers in school front offices to greet families.

Persons talked about the importance of great teachers in keeping students from feeling marginalized, and personal relationships between students and caring adults.
— This article appeared on page C2 of the Albuquerque Journal