Perry reflects on SCSD

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It’s been a road filled with hard work, positive accomplishments in difficult financial times, along with detours that have been, to say the least, challenging. But Socorro Consolidated School District’s interim superintendent, Vanetta Perry, was able to speak with pride about the gains the district has made during her tenure. She hopes the “transparency and directness” she has tried to bring to day-to-day activity has rippled through the district at all levels. On June 30, she will leave her current position and move to a new position as assistant superintendent/human resources, under the new incoming Superintendent Randall Earwood. Earwood will take the helm at SCSD on July 1.

Common Core – Great Benefit

In an interview with El Defensor Chieftain, Perry addressed the importance of moving to adopt Common Core standards, the district’s responses to recent problems of allegations concerning teacher conduct, GPA inaccuracies for this year’s senior class and what she hopes will be her ultimate legacy.

On the subject of Common Core, Perry commented, “The district’s move toward this is going to be a tremendous benefit to our students. It will be putting them on a level playing field with students across the country, regardless of their economic status. Common Core standards are also internationally recognized as benchmarks for academic achievement, as well as having already been adopted in 48 states.”

Additional strengths, according to Perry, are uniform curricula, indicators of success and instructional practices.

“We are extremely excited about what the changes will accomplish. Students will be able to demonstrate critical thinking, communicate effectively both in writing and verbally. This will allow students to be equipped with the kind of skills for real life problem solving and real life situations,” said Perry. She also believes the new standards prepare students for life after graduation, regardless whether or not they attend college or enter the workforce directly.

Perry would like all the stakeholders —students, parents and community members — to be aware of the benefits of this change.

“It’s a great movement toward the Common Core, it’s exactly the right thing to do. We want to do all we can to let parents and the community know that this is a positive transformation occurring here. Our parents are key stakeholders and we want that all important ‘buy in.’”

The interim superintendent went on to explain that community support for the initiative will provide a community effort resulting in “the highest level in setting that bar.”

Other successes

“Our teachers and administrators have put their shoulders to the wheel, and it shows,” said Perry, referring to the improved grades each school in the district received in this latest round of evaluation by the New Mexico Public Education Department. “Their effort has been remarkable and commendable with positive changes happening in a very short time.”

There have also been significant enhancements behind the scenes in order to streamline the administrative capacity for the district.

“We’ve implemented the use of two human resource software programs. One will provide online substitute teacher management and the other will provide an online applicant system. There’s still some adjusting to do, but we’ve done the initial work,” she said.

The district here, like many districts nationwide, have been forced to deal with difficult financial realities.

“We’ve been committed to being responsible stewards of public funds. We’ve worked intensely across the board, to streamline with the least possible impact to the classroom. It’s been challenging, but we’re also here to say that possible,” said Perry.

Stewardship in Difficult Times

On May 5, El Defensor Chieftain reported that the current senior class was faced with significant grade point average inaccuracies, due to problems with the JMAC software used by the district. The result was that all students, up until May 3, had inaccurate GPAs, with a potential negative impact on college and scholarship applications. To further clarify the events and the district’s response, Perry shared the following:

  • In the summer of 2011, the district adjusted the input of grades into JMAC, its grade tracking software, in order to “reflect policies stated in the school handbook and PED requirements,” moving away from letter grading carrying a plus or minus value.
  • Until “very recently,” said Perry, the district had not known that the adjustment had caused the software to categorize grades carrying a plus or minus as an invalid entry, not counted in the student’s GPA.
  • Perry issued a letter to all parents on May 3, explaining the situation and announcing the reissuing of corrected transcripts.
  • Under her direction, Socorro High School Principal Cliff De Young held a student meeting on May 7 to discuss the problem and ask that each student provide the district with a list of entities that were sent transcripts prior to May 3.
  • As of this writing, she stated she had been approach by two seniors and their families requesting redress. She was not aware if Principal De Young had been contacted by additional students.
  • Perry indicated she has “directly contacted the admission offices of all the state universities” to enlist their cooperation in rectifying the matter.

“Interestingly enough, UNM Director of Admission Matthew Hewitt told me that UNM doesn’t use our GPAs, but has developed their own GPA system, weighted with students’ core courses relevant to the major they selected.”

Regarding a complaint by Marcella Sandoval, mother of senior Bryce Sandoval, which alleged that coach Lawrence Baca had acted in an abusive manner toward her son, and that her son’s five day suspension for allegedly attempting to assault Baca was unwarranted, Perry reiterated that “a thorough investigation from start to finish has been done. We believe in professional conduct by all teachers and staff and we expect that.”

Good Wishes for Earwood

Perry wrapped up the interview with words of welcome for her successor. “We are excited to have Mr. Earwood come onboard. This is a wonderful town full of warm, caring people. We’re proud of our school district and all we’ve tried to do. We have great kids, great parents, great teachers and a great community.”

 


-- Email the author at lalvarado@dchieftain.com.

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