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Two RISD schools on NMPED honor roll

Christopher Ruszkowski, outgoing state secretary of education, goes through a “high-five tunnel” made by Sierra Middle School students for students at El Capitan Elementary School on Sept. 20, during a stop on the New Mexico Public Education Department’s New Mexico Straight-A Tour. (Alison Penn Photo)

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Outgoing secretary of education selects 10 schools for recognition


Two Roswell Independent School District schools have been included among the 10 schools on the state’s “Secretary’s Honor Roll.”

The two honored schools are Sidney Gutierrez Middle School, an RISD-authorized charter school, and El Capitan Elementary School. Both schools earned A grades from the state this past fall and were visited by Christopher Ruszkowski, the outgoing secretary of education.

Sidney Gutierrez Middle School has seven consecutive A grades in the seven years since the school grades were implemented. New Mexico School For The Arts, a state-authorized charter school, is the only other school in the state to do so, according to data from the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED). 

El Capitan Elementary School’s annual grade has climbed from a D to an A, increasing a letter grade every year since 2015. 

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A NMPED press released stated Ruszkowski’s last act as secretary was implementing the “first ever” Secretary’s Honor Roll. According to the Albuquerque Journal, new Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, as of Tuesday, had yet to announce her appointments to head the NMPED, the Health Department and the Children, Youth and Families Department, though Lujan Grisham has announced some cabinet appointments.

The NMPED release states that Ruszkowski has visited all 89 districts and hundreds of schools and classrooms around the state over the past 18 months, and wanted to draw attention to “what is possible for all of New Mexico’s students.”  

From these visits, the 10 schools on the honor roll were chosen according to the following attributes: school performance over the years, the school’s service to students from low-income communities and innovative and evidence-based practices implemented within the schools. Additionally, the release shared that “the vast majority of schools on the list serve communities that are over 80 percent low-income.”

“I hope that my successor will invest the time and energy in visiting every school district, put themselves in our students’ shoes, and celebrate and champion our state’s best schools and classrooms through a combination of reviewing student achievement data and on-site observation,” Ruszkowski said. 

“This list hopefully becomes the beginning of a tradition where ten schools are put on the ‘honor roll’ each year and become open-door labs of learning and innovation — places that fundamentally change the collective consciousness around what is possible for all students — regardless of background. We should learn from the best and design for excellence.

“This collection of schools are often beating the odds, are the most innovative — and are proving that demographics do not define our students’ educational and life outcomes. Once you visit one, you will be forever transformed. And once you see students’ academic trajectories and lives being fundamentally changed in one school, you inevitably ask yourself the question: Why doesn’t every school do what these schools are doing?”

The other eight honor roll schools, which also earned A grades in the last year, are: San Lorenzo Elementary School (Cobre Consolidated School District), Gil Sanchez Elementary School (Belen Consolidated Schools), Jose Barrios Elementary School (Silver Consolidated Schools), Anthony Elementary School (Gadsden Independent School District), Mesquite Elementary School (Gadsden Independent School District), Mission Achievement and Success (Albuquerque Public Schools and a state-authorized charter school), Santa Teresa Middle School (Gadsden Independent School District) and New Mexico School For The Arts in Santa Fe.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com. The Albuquerque Journal also contributed to this report.

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