Socorro Schools focus on positives

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Socorro Consolidated Schools’ overall success isn’t reflected in the grades recently released by the Public Education Department (PED), according to Superintendent Randall Earwood.

Socorro Consolidated Schools’ overall success isn’t reflected in the grades recently released by the Public Education Department (PED), according to Superintendent Randall Earwood.

“It’s unfortunate people look at them in such a negative way,” he said. “We’re doing great things for kids.”

Socorro schools received low marks, some coming as a surprise to Earwood. When the district got its test scores back, Socorro High School, Midway Elementary and Zimmerly Elementary all showed improvement. That wasn’t evident in the PED grades.

Associate Superintendent Anton Salome discovered some “abnormalities” with some of the data used to calculate the school grades. He contacted the PED, and Socorro Schools have filed an appeal to have the scores recalculated.

All school districts can file an appeal through Aug. 6. To see a complete list of the grades, visit www.ped.state.nm.us and click on “School Grading.”

“Socorro has one of the best teaching staffs I’ve ever seen,” Earwood said. “Our school grades are in no way a reflection of our teachers.”

Socorro grads have experienced great accomplishments, Earwood added. A handful of grads have attended the Air Force Academy, and Socorro students, this year, earned a total of $385,000 in scholarships.

Earwood doesn’t want to see his employees get down about the school grades. For the past few years, the district has focused on staff morale. An employee morale program was created to recognize teachers’ efforts, Earwood said.

“(Teachers) should be thinking about what they do in a positive way,” he added. “They’re doing great things for kids.”

The district is always facing two challenges – finding teachers and funding, according to Earwood.

“We’re finding teachers, not only here but statewide, are leaving the profession,” he said. “Education used to get 50 percent of the state budget, and now it’s only 43 percent.”

The district has a host of new programs this year, according to Salome. Included in those is a mobile food pantry at Parkview Elementary in partnership with Roadrunner Food Bank.

The high school is working with the PED School and Family Support Bureau to offer a teen dating awareness project to encourage safe and healthy relationships, Salome said.

Socorro Schools is partnering with Magdalena Schools to support students experiencing barriers that keep them from going to school, according to Salome. This includes students whose families may be homeless. A federal program helps the schools offer resources such as tutoring, supplies and transportation, Salome added.

The district will continue its great working relationship with the City of Socorro, according to Earwood. That includes using the city’s new soccer fields south of town, he said.

A number of schools underwent physical improvements over the summer, Earwood said. Those included remodeling restrooms, new lighting, parking lot improvements and a new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant playground at Parkview, he added.

New technology was added so the district’s Internet can handle more wireless devices, Salome mentioned.

The district was awarded the K-3 Plus grant, which will help fund the Socorro Primary Academic Readiness Kindergarten through 2nd Grade program, referred to as SPARK-2, a multi-age classroom concept at Parkview Elementary.

The grant was written to include 260 students in K-3 Plus; the number of children who actually enroll will determine what piece of the approximate-$300,000 piece of pie the district will receive. That number is right around 260, according to Parkview Principal Rey Carrejo.

In March, Earwood put together a committee of educators and administrators tasked to brainstorm ideas and assist in the development of SPARK-2. Carrejo was part of that team.

He said parents response to the new multi-age classroom program has been mixed, but that’s changing.

“The more they find out about it, the more they want their kids involved,” Carrejo added. “People are welcoming the new approach.”

Included with SPARK-2 is “looping,” which means students will have the same teacher throughout their time at Parkview, according to Carrejo. That familiarity factor is beneficial to students and parents, he added.

SPARK-2 classroom will include seven students from each grade and classrooms will have 20 students each, Carrejo said

“Any change with education is exciting and scary,” he added. “I think this is a really good fit.”