Schools are asked to do many things for students: provide food, medical care, family counseling, discipline and, of course, education. Generally, those who work in education have dealt with each need and found solutions for students and families. They have done this despite shrinking budgets and shrinking support in the public education system. We are now facing an uncertain future in public education, while we recover from the pandemic, recession, and historic levels of division and inequity.

A cornerstone of society, our schools can be a powerful accelerant toward a virtuous cycle of progress and prosperity. But public education is in a precarious position, and for too long it has absorbed blame and trundled along. So, as we look to emerge into spring and out of the pandemic, we are called to do the hard work of working together. True progress in education is possible if we act as a community.

To kick off, I’ll start with three key lessons learned during nearly four years on the Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education.

1. Public education is fueled by almost unparalleled human passion, because, after all, it’s about the children. But it is also incredibly complex and regulated.

That passion is probably our schools’ greatest asset, and during the pandemic, the increased engagement from adults supporting students has been magical. Most of us are now closer to our students’ school days than ever. But it’s the professional educators, with their career passions, who manage the complex factors and the regulations that govern our schools.

Some regulations are centered around individuals — like processes to support medically fragile students. Others are big-system considerations — like the different requirements for various funding sources, federal money, state legislation, voter-approved bonds and mill levies, private grants and out-of-school supports. Plus, there are the requirements around serving thousands of daily meals, giving vaccinations, providing mental health and other wellness supports. Which brings me to:



2. The teachers and staff are the heart and soul of our schools. In a historically underpaid, highly criticized and politicized arena, people work in schools because of their deep commitment. They are the problem solvers. They are the force that makes progress, and the people who manage the troubles.

The work is hard, with early morning starts, strict rules to follow, infinite requests and special circumstances, plentiful misunderstandings and miscommunications, a healthy dose of acting out, oodles of logistics and frequent micro-crises. But the staff shows up and moves students’ learning forward. Which is why:

3. Schools depend on community support, and we need this more than ever. Volunteers, nonprofits, local businesses, neighbors, community colleges, city and county programs, all contribute to schools and make a difference for students and families.

This is how we have extracurricular activities and leverage incredible cultural assets. It’s how robotics clubs, field trips, attendance awards, athletics, music groups, literacy support, internships, mentorships, dual credit programs, job pathways and many other crucial activities can happen.

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rebuild public education and make strong the cornerstone of our community’s prosperity. It has been hugely disrupted; we have learned immense amounts and adopted enabling technology quickly. Now, as we rebuild we can innovate. We must foster a culture of support for educators, students and schools. Public education is truly a local system, reflective of, and dependent on, the staff, families, organizations, and environments that surround our schools.

So, let’s move forward with open minds, kindness, and a strong bias to innovation and problem solving, together. Find some way to contribute, large or small. Ask families, teachers, and most of all students what they need from the community, and make it happen. Education will never be the same again, and that can be good.

Learning Santa Fe is a bimonthly column by a variety of community voices about the state of our schools and education in general. Kate Noble is president of the Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education.

(10) comments

Lisa Clark

Well said Miss Noble. Having served on the Board, a very long time ago, of the Boys and Girls Club I saw the incredible need for community cooperation to solve budget shortfalls. Our local non-profits bring so many solutions to the table, but as you pointed out, it takes community buy in to solve a problem.

And for those parents who are at the end of their rope; My kids are grown and I just can't even imagine what you are going through. Thank you for your sacrifice. I'm certain you all have a new appreciation for the herculean efforts of our teachers.

Chris Mechels

It would be useful for Noble, and others, to insist on the Public Education Department, PED, following our laws. All PED rulemakings since March 2020 have been illegal, in violation of the NM Rules Act.

Noble, and others, seem not to care, though these violations mean the public had not had their, required, input to these rules changes.

If our governing bodies, up to and including the Governor, won't follow our laws, which allow for public input and participation, we don't have a Democracy, we have a sham.

Noble may be well intentioned, but if there is no respect for the laws, and the rights of the public to input the process, does she really believe in democracy, or just power?? Alan Webber clearly believes only in power..

Should we tell our children the TRUTH about our Democracy? That its a fraud?? Perhaps that would be useful...

Elizabeth Jones

All you have to do is get teachers back to work IN CLASS. Can someone please explain to me why my kid’s school isn’t back to normal hours even though the entire staff has been vaccinated? I’m so tired of this bureaucratic BS - just do your job.

Jerry Appel

The answer is simple, it's about the kids. There are vulnerable children and there is conflicting evidence about how transmissible this virus is amongst children. Despite your exhortations, schools still need to maintain mask wearing, social distancing, et cetera, and CDC guidelines require near zero community spread in the entire county and surrounding counties before life returns to normal. Your school district is just following the science and saving lives.

Kathy Fish

This reductive response to Noble's complex letter makes me laugh out loud. "All you have to do" - who in particular? Noble herself? You make a resolution to a complicated health crisis sound so easy when you put it that way. And even if, as you assert, "the entire staff has been vaccinated," which frankly I doubt, what of the as-yet unvaccinated students, who could transmit the virus to each other and, meanwhile, might live with vulnerable parents, grandparents, and other family members - or be vulnerable themselves? I can assure this poster that as educators, we ARE doing our jobs - and we're working harder and for longer hours than we ever have before. Responses like yours make it ever clearer why high-quality education, online and on-ground, in NM is imperative.

Elizabeth Jones

If it were truly about the kids, we would be back in class.

Elizabeth Jones

And this isn’t a terribly complex letter - it’s a opinion that should have been written 10-11 months ago. It’s long overdue, and parents just want their kids back IN CLASS. Maybe we should follow the CDC’s recommendations.... wow, what a thought.

Chris Mechels

Just follow the CDC guidelines?? Is this by chance the same CDC that told us NOT to wear masks, and compulsively wash our hands??? That now insists we MUST wear masks, even though the science a bit missing.

This is a POLITICAL problem, no surprise, so lets stop pretending its not. The guidance coming from the Governor, her Dept of Health, and the Dept of Education, is gibberish, with "results" not tied to inputs. Its wishful thinking and media spin.

Have you forgotten "asymptomatic" Covid, which WAS a big problem??? Now its not, because its inconvenient. How about demanding some DATA from these fools, rather than their mantras.

Fact is, Covid will kill a lot of people, that has long been known. The question is, who??? What's wrong with killing old folks, which is what we've been doing?? THEY VOTE!!! What's wrong with killing teachers??? They, and their unions, also vote, and get very noisy. With no agreement on WHO will die, its chaos, and will remain chaos. The only sure deal is that the Governor and her staff will get good care, and vaccines, which is a shame. These selfish incompetents will also get big pay raises, and that's criminal.

Michael Schneider

Let's follow the recommendations of the medical and science community by getting teachers and kids back in the classroom! Santa Fe deserves more than a handful of kids back in the classroom. Time to do the heavy lifting!

David Romero

Agreed

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