Home News Local News Roswell’s only charter school considers expansion

Roswell’s only charter school considers expansion

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Sidney Gutierrez Principal Joe Andreis, at top, and Governing Council President Bill Wolf, seen at a January 2017 council meeting. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Members of the Sidney Gutierrez Middle School Governing Council, the city’s only consistently “A” rated school, are examining the possibility of expanding the school’s charter to include elementary grades.

“Part of the goal of high-performing charter schools has always been to look at what really works in the charter school environment, and it is to offer that to more students,” said Yasine Armstrong, vice president of the five-member governing council. “That is something that we are considering.”

They said the concept is only in its initial stages and would require approval of the Roswell Independent School District, which authorizes the school’s charter.

Board members say that Principal Joe Andreis has been helpful in their efforts so far because he “supports high-quality education,” but they added that there are many factors that must be considered. Among those are either expanding its existing site on Gail Harris Street at the Roswell International Air Center or finding a new location. Minutes from a September meeting indicate that discussions have occurred with air center staff about expanding the existing school building, which is leased from the city and the air center.

Sidney Gutierrez is the only public charter school located in Chaves County and one of only three brick-and-mortar and online charters operating in southeastern New Mexico. Created 17 years ago, it is considered a model school by many, with state Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski and Gov. Susana Martinez recently visiting the school and its students to praise its years of successes.

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It is the only school in the area to receive an “A” grade from the state Public Education Department for each of the past six years that the department has issued school report cards. Its students also consistently perform high on standardized tests. For the 2017-18 school year, 84 percent of students rated as proficient in math while 81 percent scored proficient in English, and those results represent significant increases compared to 2017 and 2016.

Ruszkowsi noted during his visit that Sidney Gutierrez is one of only eight schools out of 850 public K12 schools in New Mexico to have received only “A”s.

“That’s an elite class of sustained excellence,” he said.

In addition, the school is often ranked as one of the best public middle schools in the state by independent educational research groups such as School Digger, which puts it at No. 2 in the state, Niche (No. 11), and greatschools.org (which gives it a 10/10 rating).

As a result of its successes, the school has proven popular with area students and parents. But its charter limits enrollment to 66, with few exceptions allowed by the school district. Ideally, those 66 students are divided into 22 for each grade, sixth, seventh and eighth. In past years, many more students have applied to attend the school than available slots allowed, which has led the school to initiate a lottery system to choose new pupils on a random basis. (Admission is guaranteed for the siblings of students already attending the school, as required by state law.)

As Governing Council members see it, expanding to other grades would be a way to keep the school’s commitment to small class sizes, while also offering high-quality education to a larger number of students in the city.

According to the New Mexico Public Education Department, there are 96 K12 charter schools in the state for the 2018-19 year.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.