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Taylor to advocate for charter school options

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First term on Public Education Commission begins in January

A Roswell orthodontist and charter school governing council member said that he plans to advocate for more charter school options and high academic standards when he begins his service next month on the New Mexico Public Education Commission.

Dr. Michael Taylor ran unopposed as a Republican in the primaries and the November general elections for the District 8 seat. He will begin the four-year term for his first elected office in January, when he will join four other new members.

“After serving 13 years on the governing board of Sidney Gutierrez, I felt like I wanted to try to help other communities in the state of New Mexico really benefit from a charter school education or a charter school opportunity,” Taylor said.

Elected officials with the Public Education Commission represent 10 districts in the state.

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According to the New Mexico Public Education Department, there are now 52 state-authorized charter schools in New Mexico. None are in District 8, which covers Mora, San Miguel, Torrance, Guadalupe, De Baca, Lincoln, Otero and Chaves counties, as a well as eastern portions of Socorro and Bernalillo counties.

Commission Chairwoman Patricia Gipson said the commission regularly accepts new charter school applications and makes decisions about them and also renews or denies existing contracts. But the 2021 year also will involve “new challenges” concerning COVID-related impacts and practices.

“Hopefully in the spring we will be able to have more schools that will be able to open,” Gipson said, “so those challenges that go along with the opening and making sure students are safe — but then also the identification of the learning gaps that have occurred over the past year and how schools are going to address those learning gaps and strategies they are going to employ.”

Taylor said the first meeting after new members are inaugurated is expected to occur in mid-January. He also plans to observe or participate in the upcoming meetings scheduled for Dec. 9-11.

Taylor said he has been in Roswell since 1991. He was raised in Idaho, receiving his undergraduate degree in zoology with a minor in chemistry from the College of Idaho. He completed a degree in dentistry from Creighton University in Nebraska and an orthodontic residency at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.

Taylor said he plans to continue serving on the Sidney Gutierrez Schools Governing Council. Because Sidney Gutierrez is authorized by the Roswell Independent School District, rather than the state, he said that working with both groups will not present a conflict of interest.

Taylor said funding is always a pressing issue for charter schools, but added that ensuring good academic performance is crucial as well.

“I believe that all charter schools need to perform at an exemplary, excellent, level, so I believe in helping those schools that are having difficulty in achieving that excellence, raise that bar so that they can perform at a higher level.”

He said that his work with Sidney Gutierrez Schools has convinced him that other communities should consider charter schools as well.

“I feel like it is something that offers a unique option in our state,” he said. “I have had such a positive experience with Sidney Gutierrez that I like the idea that we can help other communities.”

Sidney Gutierrez started as a middle school about 20 years ago, serving sixth, seventh and eighth grades. It has consistently rated as one of the best performing middle schools in the state and top schools in Roswell, as determined by results on standardized tests and other student measurements. After receiving RISD approval in November 2018, the school expanded to kindergarten to fifth grades in August at the start of the academic year.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.