After spending two days up close and personal with the Albuquerque Public Schools superintendent finalists, the school board is expected to make its pick today.
Board members will meet at 9 a.m., likely in closed session, to again interview the finalists and decide who is best for the job.
Along with the interviews and résumés, board members will consider how finalists responded to questions from the public during a series of forums Thursday and Friday.
One of the more frequent questions that came up was how the finalists would address truancy and look to improve graduation rates.
In general, the finalists said finding ways to keep students interested in schools is key to curbing truancy, dropouts and improving students’ academic success.
“What are the kind of schools we are providing for students to come to? Are they welcoming environments?” asked finalist Luis Valentino, associate superintendent/chief academic officer for San Francisco United School District.
If school officials want to tackle low graduation rates, they will need to look further back than just high school, said finalist Michael Cardona, chief school officer for Houston Independent Schools.
He said improving graduation rates requires looking all the way back to early education programs.
All the finalists said they’re proponents of early education for pre-kindergarten students.
Curbing truancy requires that school officials partner with the community at large, said finalist Almudena Abeyta, deputy superintendent for teaching and learning for Santa Fe Public Schools.
For example, Abeyta called the Wal-Mart near Capitol High School in Santa Fe and told them not serve students during school hours, she said.
Responding to another question, the finalists also said they generally support the Common Core Standards, which New Mexico adopted in recent years.
Cardona explained that Texas, where he currently works, hasn’t adopted Common Core, but he said the new standards attempt to raise expectations for students and that’s a good thing. “It’s really about the level of rigor,” he said.
Abeyta said the new standards are good, but putting them in place is not easy. In Santa Fe, she encouraged teachers to focus on one aspect of the new teaching standards during the first year in order to ease the burden on teachers.
“Whatever reforms there are, we need to support teachers,” she said.
Valentino said he backs the Common Core. He also said tests like the controversial PARCC exam – which New Mexico adopted as it statewide test this year – are necessary for schools to know whether they are improving.
But Valentino also said he has some concerns with the state’s teacher evaluations and would speak with New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera about revisiting the evaluations.