May 2015 Column

   The end of a school year is a great time to reflect on the accomplishments as well as missed opportunities.  AT HMS we try to make it part of our culture to step back and review the positives as well as the areas in which we need to place more focus for improvement next school year.  Our focus is always on improving the academic performance of our children. 
   The class of 2015 was the first group of students to attend the “new” freshmen high school.  During our research we determined that building adjacent to Hobbs High School would benefit students by giving them a sense of being a part of the high school process. Statistically this has been a positive move.  We have been able to share resources and teachers between schools and our graduation rate has increased steadily over the past four years.
   Teacher evaluations continue to be in the news across New Mexico as well as nationally.  I was fortunate to visit with Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera recently with four of my colleagues from across the state.  The intent of the meeting was a request to reduce the weight given to student test scores when evaluating teachers. Although we did not meet our goals, we were able to come to a consensus that the process needs to be reviewed continually. We also agreed that as we see areas that need to be tweaked or modified, it should come about through a collaborative effort.
  In June 2014, Gov. Susana Martinez hosted approximately 15 New Mexicans who discussed their education expectations for the state.  Mark Veteto of Hobbs was instrumental in bringing the group together. The Superintendents’ organization attended this meeting with three goals: Improve communication between the NM Public Education Department and its 89 schools districts. Secondly,  send information to superintendents for verification prior to public release and  finally, reduce the percentage of student achievement used in teacher evaluation. Currently, the communication has improved dramatically.  Superintendent leadership has phone conversations with PED on a continual basis to review ideas and get a heads up on information approaching.  PED has also been diligent about releasing information to school districts prior to public release.  As stated earlier, the percentage of student achievement on teacher evaluation is still a discussion point, and has actually seen some softening by PED rather than a hard line approach that it is “off the table.”
  Teacher evaluations as well as standardized testing are a result of trying to improve the quality of education for our children.  We may not agree on the methodology on how to accomplish better quality, but it must be understood that our focus is on our children’s academic performance to ensure their success in the real world. Negotiations are difficult, time consuming and frustrating.  It is a necessary evil when two parties have varying positions.
   I believe the model we have chosen at Hobbs Municipal Schools has and will continue to be effective.  We are continuing to see improvement in our instructional performance as well as academic performance. Last year HMS grew more than one academic year’s growth as an entire district.  This can only be accomplished when a district believes in the common goals and all perform as a unified team. The closing of a school year comes with mixed blessings as we say goodbye and good luck to our graduating seniors.  The anticipation of continued improvement makes me excited as we prepare for the 2015-16 school year.  I hope as a community we can continue to reflect on our accomplishments and shortcomings to lead us to a brighter future.

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