I was interested to see the Albuquerque Journal’s story about Superintendent Winston Brooks’ approval numbers in a recent poll, if only because I believe the results point to the continuity and vision he has provided during his time at Albuquerque Public Schools.
As a former APS student, Board of Education member and father of two APS graduates, Brooks’ approval rating of 36 percent – his approval numbers are higher than his disapproval numbers – is an indication that he has been willing to do the right thing, not just the popular thing. At the end of the day, that’s exactly what this community has long needed – a superintendent willing to put the interests of students first.
It’s also interesting that the newspaper would poll on Brooks to begin with. As we know all too well, few of his predecessors stayed long enough for anyone to know them, let alone evaluate their work.
Let me be frank: Have I always been happy with the district? Of course not. Have I always been happy with the superintendent? No. During my time on the board, we often disagreed. But I have always known Brooks’ dedication to Albuquerque’s 89,000 students and 142 schools is above reproach.
He has directed the district’s resources to areas of the city that needed help, while also building schools of choice that make APS a formidable presence in a market rife with charter and private schools. He has turned APS into one of the best urban districts in the county, with graduation rates on the rise as funding trends have declined.
I have witnessed this transformation from a variety of angles as a parent. My daughter was a special education student in APS. My son recently graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point. Neither child had a perfect experience, but both emerged from APS better prepared for the world they will face.
There are many reasons for that success – and I think those factors are taken into account by parents, many of whom say they are happy with their kids’ schools.
Unfortunately for Brooks, poll numbers often are based on things he cannot control. He works in a world where a governor has cut education funding and places unrealistic expectations on teachers, staff and administrators – all while suggesting to the public that reform should come from Santa Fe rather than the people who actually do this for a living.
Given all that, it’s going to be tougher for students to succeed – and superintendents to win style points in a newspaper poll.
Nevertheless, my hat is off to Winston Brooks. I hope he’ll continue to fight the fight, because he has made a difference.