Sarracino principal goes to Magdalena

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The superintendent of Magdalena schools announced the district’s new principal at a board meeting on Tuesday, July 17.

Kim Ortiz, the principal at Sarracino Middle School in Socorro, accepted Superintendent Mike Chambers’ offer after a second interview. Since the school district decided to consolidate its two positions for budgetary reasons, and with the resignations of principals Kitty Martin and Regina Laine this year, the new principal needed to have experience with all three levels of education – elementary, middle and high schools. Ortiz fit the bill.

Along with working at Sarracino for the last two years, Ortiz worked at Parkview Elementary School for five years and served as a head teacher at the alternative high school in Socorro for a year. She also has four years of experience as a teacher at Socorro High School.

She says she understands the different approaches needed for each level of education she’ll be overseeing as principal in Magdalena.

“It’s a whole different mindset the way you handle discipline with a senior in high school than you do with a kindergartner,” Ortiz said. “Maybe because I’ve done both, and discipline was really my key area of focus when I was a teacher, that was not anything I had a problem with. I had to learn how to deal with younger kids. But it’s not really about discipline for any age. It’s really about teaching them. In school, that’s what we have to do is try to teach them how to behave and take responsibility for their actions, and so that you do, you know, across age levels.”

That philosophy helped improve Parkview Elementary when she was the principal there. The school met its Annual Yearly Progress goals three years in a row (it didn’t make it her last year) before she was hired at Sarracino Middle School.

Ortiz was hired for the Sarracino job, at a school that the state’s Public Education Department (PED) had to step in and help with grant money, because she showed she had a record of improvement.

Sarracino is now looking for another principal with a transformational track record – and they need one fast. PED doesn’t just want to hire a principal with no experience, she said. If Sarracino can get a new principal, Ortiz said she is free to leave.

Usually a school district’s employee is required to wait 30 days before moving to a different one, but Ortiz said Socorro Consolidated Schools Superintendent Randal Earwood has known about her impending resignation since she started looking for a new job and will allow her out of that stipulation.

Right now though, Ortiz is working like she’ll be at Sarracino come fall. She’s conducting interviews so she can fill positions in Language Arts, counseling, and custodial and secretarial work. But she has her reasons for leaving.

“I was missing my kindergarten kids, my little babies,” she says. “And with the cut in pay and stuff, that’s when I started looking. When it opened up, I was thrilled because I wasn’t sure that I wanted to leave secondary (education), but I knew that I (wanted to work at) maybe a K through eighth school or something. Because we have dances, we have sports activities and stuff in middle school. So when it was K-12, I thought it was a perfect fit.”

Ortiz said her husband and herself have always liked the village of Magdalena and living there has always been a topic of discussion. As far as the school goes, she said she’s impressed by the grades the state handed down to the three schools, but there is always room for improvement.

Both the middle and high school got Cs and the elementary school got a D. However, she says, the elementary school missed receiving a C grade by less than one point. But she says the biggest challenge will be how she responds to her staff and how the staff and community responds to her.

“I think that the most challenging thing will be for us is just the expectations – learning each others’ expectations, what they expect from a principal and what I expect from students and teachers,” Ortiz said. “But once you get over that I think we’d be very successful. They have amazing teachers there. They have a low turnover rate – the teachers stay. I’m not worried about anything that’s going on other than just us figuring out, you know, what we want from each other.”

Ortiz is one of several teachers and administrators in the Socorro school district that will not be returning next year.