NMPED secretary, APS on talks over Hawthorne Elementary | KOB 4
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NMPED secretary, APS on talks over Hawthorne Elementary

Erica Zucco
May 16, 2018 05:13 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – On Tuesday, Albuquerque Public Schools held a meeting with parents of Hawthorne Elementary School students to discuss the future of the school and what options parents have.

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KOB-TV sat down with New Mexico Public Education Department Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski to find out where the NMPED said it is in talks with APS, and what message the department has for parents.

The Every Student Succeeds Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama to replace No Child Left Behind, set standards for schools across the nation. The NMPED says based on ESSA, there were four New Mexico schools in need of "most rigorous intervention," meaning that they needed significant changes to remain open, or could face potential closure.

"No other schools in the state – in the entire state of New Mexico, all 89 districts – have that kind of whole generation of kids and families that have been underserved," Ruszkowski said. "It's our responsibility as a state and a community to intervene and do something different."

Three of the schools listed are part of Albuquerque Public Schools. APS and the NMPED agree that Los Padillas Elementary and Whittier Elementary are candidates for the "significantly restructure and redesign" option, meaning that APS can undergo performance changes and keep the schools open.

However, the NMPED says Hawthorne Elementary school must "champion and provide choice," meaning that the district should focus on discussing school performance with parents of Hawthorne students, make them aware of their other district, magnet, charter and private school options, and use money allocated by the federal government and distributed by NMPED to achieve those objectives.

The school can also remain open and work toward improvements. But the NMPED says if performance does not improve, it can pursue other "most rigorous intervention" options, including closure.

In regards to Los Padillas and Whittier Elementary and where they are in the process, Ruszkowski said this:

"APS still does not have a state-approved plan on file for any of those schools," Ruszkowski said Wednesday. "Los Padillas and Whittier, both of those schools, they do not have a state-approved plan on file. We've been going back and forth for a while now. APS needs to commit in full to implementing their plan without reservation, without caveat, without contingency. They have a plan. We've gone back and forth on a few of the details. I think we've found middle ground on those details. But now they must commit to implementing that, within the timelines, without any caveats, without any contingencies. There's no time to lose here. They have to forge ahead, get ready for next school year and commit in full to all of the details to that plan."

APS released a statement saying, "The district is reviewing the letters sent from the Public Education Department concerning Los Padillas and Whittier elementary schools. We have until Friday to respond, at which time we will be in a better position to comment. We are looking forward to further collaboration with PED."

As for Hawthorne Elementary School, Ruszkowski said the process is two-fold for APS.

"The schools have a chance to get better. But for Hawthorne in particular – 500 kids and families in that community with lots of better options around – [champion and provide choice] seemed like the right thing to do for kids and families to make them aware that they have options and opportunities because every kid and every family deserves that," Ruszkowski said. "[APS] needs to submit a plan on how they're going to do that. How they're going to do, what I call, democratize choice. How they're going to make it so that every parent and family – no matter their zip code, no matter how much money's in their bank account, no matter where they live – has the same wide variety of options as parents and families that have means. If that means buses, there's money for that. If that means parental flyers and info sessions, there's money for that. If that means brochures or social media or advertising or billboards, there's money for that. How does APS stand up for the civil rights and the rights of every single child? And we're asking them to do that in the case of Hawthorne. It doesn't mean parents and families still might not choose to send their kid to Hawthorne but we shouldn't keep parents and families in dark about the options they do have."

Ruszkowski said it's also about more than providing and sharing choices.

"They also have to commit to this idea that if the school doesn't get better for kids and families, then there's an end point," he said. "There's a point at which, if the school does not start to earn C's or better, that at that point if the school earns a seventh F in a row and eight F in a row, at that point we have to find a better place for those kids and families to go.”

APS says it is still formulating answers to its most recent correspondence received from the NMPED- but it wants Hawthorne parents to know the school will remain open next year. APS says it did share options with parents at Tuesday’s meeting. To learn more about APS’ previous correspondence with NMPED over Hawthorne, click here.

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Erica Zucco

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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