APS superintendent answers questions on past, future after contract announcement
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — On Thursday, Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Scott Elder spoke with KOB 4 one week after he announced he’ll leave the position in June of 2024.
FULL INTERVIEW: You can see the full, unedited interview at the bottom of this post.
Elder said he’ll retire, which is a move he’s been thinking about.
“It felt like a good time,” he said.
Elder was at the helm as schools dealt with the COVID pandemic. KOB 4 asked him how he believes the district is doing with getting kids caught up academically.
“I think we’re right where we should be. I think we understand that this is not a simple solution. The kids came back, yeah they lost academics, that’s true. They also lost a lot of socialization,” Elder said.
Tommy Lopez: “There’s been a lot of bad behavior during this time, recovering from the pandemic. Does APS need to be doing more to address this? It seems like a pretty constant source of frustration for a lot of teachers and families right now.”
Elder: “Well it’s a national issue. It’s not for APS of course. There were mental health aspects of being isolated that long, and the kids are working it out. We are seeing – I don’t know about bad behaviors – but extreme behaviors, and I think that’s been the surprise.”
Elder added that district staff members are spending a lot of time and energy addressing issues.
KOB 4 asked Superintendent Elder about restorative justice, a philosophy the district is using more and more. It aims to cut down on the number of student suspensions to keep kids in school and to have students discuss issues among themselves.
Tommy Lopez: “I know one of the philosophies right now is restorative justice. This is from a teacher-to-student level, from a district level. How do you feel that is going right now for APS?”
Scott Elder: “I think we still have a ways to go on that. We’ve got a lot of growth. We understand the concept. We have schools that have adopted it to various levels of success. Some are still coming on board. The concept is not that we ignore issues, but that when kids have behaviors that don’t meet our expectations, that we work on educating them to not do it again, and that we try not to just turn our back or just assume that a punishment or consequence is going to teach them the lesson they need to learn. We’re saying it’s more than that, and it’s also about them taking responsibility for their actions and addressing the victims or whoever was impacted by whatever their behavior was. That takes a lot of resources to do that, and we have, obviously, our school counselors, our school administrators are part of that. You asked if there is more we can do, we have an army of counselors that we have hired on contract to see kids and families outside of the school day to support people who are in distress, and if we didn’t do that I don’t know who else would. I think it’s real important for people to understand that that work hasn’t stopped.”
Tommy Lopez: “What do you say to teachers who are concerned that they need more help, more support, to be able to pull off these philosophies from training to the kind of administrative – and other help from counselors – what do you say to those concerns right now?”
Scott Elder: “I think they need to know that we’re hiring as much support as we can, and that it’s not something that we’re turning our back on. The reality is, there’s only so many people out there that do that type of work. We’ve hired pretty much everybody who’s applied for that type of work, for those types of contracts, we’ve brought on because we recognize the need is that great.”
ORIGINAL STORY CONTINUED:
Students bringing guns to school has been a recent issue at APS. Elder was superintendent during the tragedy at Washington Middle School when a student shot and killed a classmate.
Elder said the district has put forward a proposal where some students would be expelled permanently for bringing a gun to school.
KOB 4 asked about staffing levels, and Elder said the district is doing well overall but really needs special education teachers. It’s also looking for more bus drivers, custodians and food service workers.
The district did hire 58 new employees at a job fair this week.
KOB 4 asked Elder what his biggest frustrations have been, aside from the COVID pandemic.
“I think I get frustrated with the politics around education. People have politicized what they believe, and it really is about how do we educate kids and how do we make them prepared for a really evolving world,” he said.
Elder said he has worked in education for 33 years.