It has been another very productive year for students and staff in the Albuquerque Public Schools. So, as the 2013-14 school year comes to a close, I want to talk about some of the highlights from the past year.
We started off the year with something that had not happened in more than 45 years in the district. We opened a new football venue for students – the APS Community Stadium on the West Side. The stadium, a 7,000-seat, $38 million facility, also includes a 2,600-seat track and field area, and will serve as the anchor for an entire sports complex for residents living in the area as both the school district and the city of Albuquerque add other fields for recreational activities.
In terms of facilities, the district also recently broke ground for a new school that will serve students in kindergarten through the eighth grade and will also have a city-run pre-school program for children living in the Southwest area of the city.
Speaking of the Southwest, the school district joined with Bernalillo County to provide a learning center for students living on the Southwest Mesa, where many homes do not have running water, sewer or electricity. The new center is a place for students to study before and after school with the help of tutors funded by the district.
The dedicated teachers and staff in our schools also continued to shine. Just last week, the APS Board of Education honored 52 teachers who received National Board Certification over the past year. Teachers, students, parents and administrators also deserve credit for raising the district’s four-year-graduation rate to its highest point ever, at 73.3 percent.
Laura Case received the New Mexico Nursing Excellence Award for her efforts as the director of nursing services for the district, overseeing the work of 136 school nurses.
On the national level, Andy Cook, a Spanish and Italian teacher at Manzano High School, received the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award, the only teacher in New Mexico this year to win the honor and the $25,000 cash prize that comes with it.
APS students Ceidric Platero of Del Norte High and Gabriel Reyes of Valley High were among the 1,000 students from around the country named Gates Millennium Scholars, which will allow them to pursue their degrees in any undergraduate major at any college or university without having to worry about the cost.
APS programs also received national recognition this year, starting with a visit by U.S. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan to Emerson Elementary as part of his back-to-school bus tour in the fall. Duncan heard about how APS and the Albuquerque Teachers Federation have worked together to transform Emerson into a Common Core State Standards Demonstration Magnet School. In the fall, Emerson also became the first school in the region to have a Boys & Girls Club on site to provide after-school programs for students.
The district hosted the national conference of the Council of the Great City Schools, providing it an opportunity to showcase not only its programs, but also the city to educators from the largest urban school districts in the United States.
Chelsea Clinton of NBC News was also in town earlier this year to tell the story of the Homework Diner program at Manzano Mesa Elementary. She showed the nation how parents and the school joined with Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Community Schools Partnership and Central New Mexico Community College to provide dinner to students and their families one night each week. After they eat, teachers from all grade levels are available to help parents learn to help their children with homework.
And, just last month, U.S. News & World Report awarded gold medals to six APS high schools – Albuquerque High, Eldorado, the Early College Academy, La Cueva, Sandia and Volcano Vista – as it honored the best high schools around the country.
As we move to the close of another school year, the district and the Albuquerque community can be proud of its public schools and the work they have done over the past year to educate the young people of Albuquerque. Just wait until next year.