As we enter the month of Thanksgiving, it is appropriate for us to each reflect and give thanks
for the blessings we receive. Here is a “short list” of things I am reflecting upon relative to our
work in New Mexico Public Schools:
Sufficiency: We are in a time that is unique in New Mexico history where there is
financial sufficiency to a degree rarely encountered for public education. This began as
an offshoot of the Pandemic and the ESSR I, II, III funding received from the federal
government. As with any outflow of federal dollars, there have been guidelines,
restrictions, access and reimbursement challenges and pressures from within and
without. Looking at the issue, however, it is remarkable to realize the opportunities that
have been provided for the support of our mission. It is also remarkable that the
deadlines for expenditure of these funds will, apparently, be moved forward by one
additional year (ESSR III) so that districts will be provided much needed time to fully
expend these funds. This has been a challenge in some respects due to requirements
that have been placed on approval of plans and the reimbursement of funds processing.
None-the-less I see this as a blessing to public schools in New Mexico.
The additional financial sufficiency comes in the form of State resources (especially oil
and gas and gross receipts). This takes shape in several ways including the substantial
revenues provided to increase the minimum salaries for teachers, minimum salary
thresholds of minimum wage, and average percentage increases. The magnitude of this
support meets or exceeds the prevailing inflation for the same time period and positions
the State’s efforts positively. In the process, the work that still needs to be accomplished
is the decompression of all salary schedules in school districts. By focusing on the
minimums and funding that priority, the resulting impact has been the compression of
virtually every salary schedule. Other funds that have been heavily invested are ELTP
and K-12+. It appears that districts will revert about $120 M of unused funds for the
current fiscal year. We have an opportunity in this legislative session to reinvest these
funds back into our educational system.
Opportunity: We are emerging into a period of opportunity to reshape and reimagine
our system of public education. As our students and their families re-engage with us and
our staff emerges from the “cloud” of COVID, we are presented with the reality that
things are different than we had been used to and that the opportunity is now at hand
to develop our practice and our service to children which assures their growth and fills
the voids brought on by COVID. We continue to interject into the debate of extending
learning opportunities and efficacies that “one size does not fit all” and that “more is
not necessarily better; better is better”. We are urging that the differentiation of
approach and design of instruction be tool we use; that hours rather than days are the
best measure; that what is done in those hours should be engaging, flexible, and
designed to meet students where they are and developed so that students can reach
proficiency in their learning. We have suggested that student engagement activities are
part of the “tapestry” of good practice and must be included as hours of instruction
under the “new calculations”.
Collegiality: We are seeing a continued opportunity to connect with each other through
Zoom calls scheduled between superintendents, with the Secretary of Education, and
with others of our educational community. We also enjoy varied opportunities to meet
together in conferences, regional meetings and other forums in which we participate.
Additionally, our work with Cooperative Educational Services (CES) has continued to
enhance our support for administrative leadership in a well-developed and
choreographed series of programs and supports which target leadership development.
Included is the “just in time PD” provided to superintendents who can make a call 24/7
for support from the Executive Director (Stan), contact with mentors, and contact
between each other which assures administrators don’t have to act alone.
Partnerships: We are blessed with many partnerships within our organization and with
others such as the New Mexico School Bords Association (Thanks Joe Guillen). With 18
affiliates we enjoy the full range of collaboration that provides us with a richness of
understanding and thought partnering that is unique and compelling. I urge us all to
become even more familiar with each other and forge those close professional
connections that merit our attention and involvement. I am thankful that we have the
opportunities to grow a deep-seated professional relationship together that utilizes the
richness of our quality educators in this state. Together we possess amazing depth and
Friendship: I am thankful for each of you who have developed a friendship with me and
our other colleagues! This state uniquely values these friendships and relationships.
New Mexico is just the right size for us!
May each of you find your own Thanksgiving! I’m Thankful for you!