Veronica García, superintendent of the Santa Fe Public Schools, said she wanted her first State of the Schools speech to be told “from the inside out.”
The address, before a crowd of about 400 people at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center on Wednesday night, was more pageantry than policy as the district rolled out a series of live performances, taped interviews and video coverage of academic, athletic and artistic programs.
García, who took the stage after the spectacle, quipped, “I feel like Cher on her second victory tour.”
Though much of the event focused on positive achievements — such as innovative programs and teachers who earned state and national recognition in the past year — García did not shy away from the recent news that the district had earned a “D” on its state report card or the dismal student test scores released earlier this year.
“It’s not acceptable to have single-digit proficiency in our schools,” she said, referring to math proficiency rates below 10 percent at the high school level.
The school board hired García in July as a temporary replacement for former Superintendent Joel Boyd, who left the district after four years to take a job in the private sector. She was expected to serve for up to a year while the board conducted a search for a permanent leader. But instead, the board later hired García for the permanent position on a two-year contract.
García told Wednesday’s crowd she is setting the district on a “North Star” course — building relationships between teachers and students to improve outcomes.
Though she did not offer specifics, García said the district will work with the city of Santa Fe, the state Legislature and community groups to find money to expand the school day with after-school offerings, summer programs and more early childhood education classes.
The district will initiate training for teachers to ensure they are developing relationships with students and really understand their academic and personal challenges, she said.
She ensured the crowd that despite the anti-test sentiment growing around the country, standardized tests are not going away. Students will continue to be judged by their scores.
“Whether we like the test or not,” she said, educators have to “stress the performance.”
But she earned applause a moment later when she added, “We will not live by the tyranny of the test.”
García also spoke about the state’s budget woes and the likelihood that public schools will “not be spared” from cuts this coming year.
One of the most moving moments of the evening was when García played a short video clip of Capital High School Principal Channell Wilson-Segura describing how she felt when the school received a D from the state this year. Wilson-Segura began to cry, saying she had offered to resign.
“I felt like I didn’t do a very good job pushing my school to do better on the test,” she said.
“We have world-class schools, but we do have some work to do,” García told the crowd. “We can and will do better.”
Contact Robert Nott at 505-986-3021 or firstname.lastname@example.org.