It has been an exciting and eventful start to our new balanced school year. Yes, we experienced the traditional turbulence getting back on track, but Las Cruces Public Schools has spent every available resource ensuring that our busses continue to improve service to every student, our facilities function as expected, and we continue our COVID-safe practices to mitigate the recent spike of cases that LCPS has reported, along with the rest of the state and nation.
Recently, I had the privilege of telling our district's story to the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) and the Legislative Education Study Committee (LESC). As a state oversight committee, LFC is charged with making fiscal recommendations and public policy recommendations to improve performance and ensure accountability through effective allocation of resources that benefit all New Mexicans. More specifically to our cause, the LESC continually studies all education in New Mexico, recommending funding levels and changes in laws related to education. Together with our trusted legislative leaders, I am confident we will find ways to secure sustainable funding for innovative classroom programs.
Because LCPS is leading the way in doing education differently, all eyes are on us. We took the bold step to accept that by doing things the same way, we can expect the same results for our students. The state was interested in how we wove together Extended Learning Time into our balanced calendar, which has been a huge focus of mine as a 30-year educator and especially since taking the helm as superintendent. The pandemic forced us to think differently, and the way we were trending as a district was not what was best for kids. Both the LFC and the LESC want to learn more about how our stakeholders came together to ask, "What if?" What if we redesigned the calendar? What if we put students in an outside learning environment? What if teachers were actually paid what they are worth? Thanks to recent changes in funding, we have made these things a reality in LCPS, and the state is looking to us to see if these changes have a positive impact on education.
Significant strides in our Career and Technical Education (CTE) program are also becoming a reality. I dream of the day we can finally get the funding our district deserves to build a CTE hub that will focus on vocational training and trade careers, like the building and automotive trades. Think shop class on a much bigger scale - like Education House at Organ Mountain High School where students helped frame and wire a house. More students should have access to those opportunities, and I am working to make sure that happens.
It is not my work alone that will make this a reality. It has been an honor to work within my distributive leadership model that brings experts together. Distributive leadership is a collaborative process, but it has never been the cross-section of the district and the community as it is now. As an example, our Budget Survey Committee includes parents, members of the community, union representatives and members of the school board. It is amazing what we can accomplish when we all come together to do what is best for kids.
I understand the work we have accomplished has not been popular with one hundred percent of our district stakeholders. Several people have questioned why we chose to do things differently, and what data do we have to support making these changes. Using last year as a baseline, there is a lot of information we can gather at the end of this year. How has attendance been affected? How can we measure the social and emotional health of our students? Have our test scores improved? My leadership in this district has always relied on my personal policy that data drives need and need drives change. The data we had last year showed us that a change was needed.
Thank you for your continued support to be positive for our students and set an example of all the good things we can do as a district.
Ralph Ramos is the superintendent of schools at Las Cruces Public Schools.