Principal Joe Andreis updates governing council on elementary expansion plan
Sidney Gutierrez Middle School’s (SGMS) Governing Council decided to continue the discussion of a potential name change for the only Roswell public charter school.
The school is named after the New Mexican astronaut Sidney Gutierrez and governing council members, as well as Principal Joe Andreis, want to preserve the legacy of the name — and of the academic scores earned since the school opened in 2000.
During the council’s last three monthly meetings, council members have considered the merits and challenges of names such as Sidney Gutierrez Learning Academy, Sidney Gutierrez Academy and Sidney Gutierrez Public Charter School.
Each name considered would also have the tagline “a New Mexico public charter school,” Andreis said.
“To my point, we can call it whatever we want,” Andreis said. “I really think the identity of our school is still Sidney and it’s been that way for at least 18 years. …”
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At Monday night’s meeting, governing council members Secretary Shawna Perry, Kelly Smith, President Bill Wolf and Michael Taylor added another name, “Sidney Gutierrez School” as another option to consider.
A new name is being considered if SGMS’ future expansion proceeds, to instruct students from kindergarten to fifth grade along with the sixth- through eighth-grade population currently served. Andreis said the name change isn’t urgent, but suggested that one be selected by the school’s new fiscal year beginning July 1.
“… We’re in that position now where we can go forward as Sidney Gutierrez Middle School without any problems,” Andreis said. “I think when we get down to having to start paying for things and stuff like that, we need to have the new name established so that we can use that as a legal entity whether however we want to structure it.”
For the expansion, Andreis shared his idea that the school would remain one school with two campuses: a new elementary campus — location yet to be determined — and the middle school at the existing campus at 69 Gail Harris St.
The existing and possible perceptions of the middle school, colloquially known as just Sidney, were kept in mind by the board during discussion.
Some of the community misconceptions Andreis and board members mentioned during discussion included that “Handpicking” of students occurs, that the school is a private school, and matters related to funding from the state.
Perry emphasized that students are chosen through a randomized lottery in a public setting and Andreis said SGMS has been proven and protected as a public charter school through RISD since 2000, and is funded by the state, as RISD is.
For discussion purposes, Andreis presented the idea that names with “academy” could potentially reinforce the false idea that SGMS is a private school, since most schools in Albuquerque with “academy” in the name are private or parochial.
“I’m still am not sold on giving up that Sidney Gutierrez Academy,” Taylor said. “I get all of that stuff. Academy to me — every one of those schools we were talking about being private schools or academies — it signifies excellence in my mind. Like the first thing I think of is an excellent education. I don’t think necessarily private school, although it probably does go there.
“And really with all of the misinformation, the misinformation has been around since the onset of the school. It’s like as much as we’ve tried to educate people in the community and defend the position that it’s a public charter school, it still seems to just keep going. …”
Perry said SGMS’ “high performance” scores may influence the public’s perception, due to consistent performance rankings from the state and other educational organizations.
The state’s school grading system has recently been overruled in favor of another way to assess school performance, but SGMS earned consecutive “A” grades from the New Mexico Public Education Department since that system was enacted in 2012.
From a meeting she attended, Smith said it was “shocking” to discover how “really active people in the community have a really wrong idea about the school.”
On Nov. 13, the expansion was approved by the charter school’s authorizer — the RISD school board. Originally the plan was to have two phases of the expansion and to start having elementary students for fall 2019. However, it was announced in May that the governing council and administrators at SGMS decided to postpone the expansion until 2020.
Potentially in October, Andreis said SGMS will be reviewing a lease for the United Methodist Church building at 200 N. Pennsylvania Ave. The planned expansion could serve 130 K-5 students in addition to the existing 66 slots for middle school students for the next school year.
Special projects reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.