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Eubank Elementary to get an academic boost

FOR THE RECORD: This story incorrectly quoted Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Winston Brooks as saying the staff of Eubank Elementary was “sick.” The incorrect information was provided to the Journal by Brooks’ chief of staff.

It’s not every day that a principal asks for a turnaround initiative at her own school.

But that’s what Christy Sigmon did. Sigmon, who just finished her second year at the helm of Eubank Elementary School, went to associate superintendent Diane Kerschen and said she needed a boost turning around the struggling school.

Over the past several years, Albuquerque Public Schools officials have used a strategy of focusing extra resources and attention on particular schools to help them improve, based on their specific needs. Schools that have received such attention include Rio Grande High, Ernie Pyle and Van Buren middle schools and Emerson Elementary.

Eubank, on Indian School NE near Eubank Boulevard, has seen its students’ math and reading scores drop significantly in the past three years. Nearly all the students come from low-income families, and nearly one-fifth of them receive special education services.

After Sigmon asked for help, Superintendent Winston Brooks went out to the school for a visit, said APS chief of staff Joseph Escobedo.

“The superintendent went out, spent a few hours talking with the staff, and really found that, in his words, the staff was sick …” Escobedo said. “And so he came back and said, ‘This situation needs our attention.'”

The Eubank effort has an initial budget of $10,000, which will be used to pay stipends for staff members who come in during the summer to establish a plan for turning the school around. Escobedo said a central focus of the effort will be turning the school into a fine arts magnet, where art, music and drama are infused into academic lessons.

The school is already supposed to be such a magnet, Escobedo said. In past years, it was called a fine arts magnet and given funding for full-time art, music and dance teachers. But in practice, Escobedo said the students had traditional pull-out blocks of fine art instruction that were not integrated into the rest of the curriculum.

Part of the purpose of the redesign will be to transform the school into a true fine arts magnet, and to take a nontraditional approach to the use of time, Escobedo said. For example, instead of a 90-minute block of time for math and a separate hour for music, teachers might instead create a lesson in which the two subjects are intertwined – half notes and quarter notes as fractions, for example.

Teachers have been given an opportunity to leave Eubank if they aren’t invested in the redesign. So far, Kerschen said about one-fourth of the staff have left. They will have another opportunity to leave once they see the completed redesign later in the summer.

In addition, the school is becoming a new K-3 Plus site. K-3 Plus is a program that adds 25 days to the beginning of the school year at low-income schools. The school is also getting a new preschool program and a new preschool playground.

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