There are many reasons and even more excuses for the poor overall performance of the Las Cruces Public School District according to the state’s new A-to-F grading system. The Superintendent’s response that the district’s report card was not so bad because some of the Ds were close to Cs sounds as if the district aspires to, or would be satisfied with, mediocrity.
And there is a mix of non-surprise and surprise. The non-surprise: an A for Desert Hills Elementary School, located in a culturally and socio-economically advantaged area. The surprise: Bs for Las Cruces and Onate High Schools, and D for Mayfield High School. MHS came to everyone’s attention—it thinks itself the flagship of the district, apparently—because of the redistricting ruckus created by its parents and others, including many music-lovers with an MHS-uber-alles mentality. They were aided and abetted by three school board members who worked hard during the high school redistricting process to advance the parochial interests of MHS at the expense of the district as a whole.
Which facts focus attention on these three: Maria Flores, Barbara Hall, and Bonnie Votaw. All three are teachers. All three have personal or professional links to MHS. All three touted their background as teachers when they were candidates or applicants for the school board. The record of their performance in bringing their experience as teachers to bear on improving the academic performance of students in this district is unknown and probably non-existent. Indeed, their attention to special interests probably distracts them from the larger responsibilities of their job.
Ideas for education reform by the district have come to their attention. They have chosen to ignore them. What are those ideas? I can think of two: public participation, which they advocate in campaigns and ignore afterwards; and curriculum reform, which they oppose in defense of present staff and former colleagues. In short, they have made themselves isolated, insulated, and special-interest-oriented.
Their failed leadership in the redistricting process was simply the most obvious manifestation of their unfitness for educational leadership. A televised example occurred when the remaining board members had to replace a vacated position. They made the ability to work well with them a major criterion. Barbara Hall, assuring them that she wanted to do what they wanted to do, won. Other applicants stating their commitment to the public and public education, and the benefits of their non-teaching perspectives, not subservience to other board members, lost.
These three board members and the board chair, who aligns herself with them, have betrayed the public and disgraced themselves. The only public service left to them is to replace themselves with younger, community- and education-minded citizens who are not teachers, and then to resign.