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Posted September 11, 2012

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September 2012: APS Team Keeps it all Humming

Read the superintendent’s column that ran in the Albuquerque Journal today, Sept. 11.

By this time, most families with kids have settled into a fresh routine for the new school year. The alarms go off a little earlier, and there is homework to schedule, not to mention the band, choir, football, soccer and volleyball practices. I’ve always thought a bedtime curfew is a must, just so everyone has the energy to repeat it all the next day.

It goes so smoothly most days that we don’t even stop to think about how much has to go right to keep us on track. There really are many, many things to celebrate at Albuquerque Public Schools, and this year’s seamless transition back to class is one of them.

Over the summer our maintenance and facilities crews worked diligently to make sure more than 4,400 air conditioning and cooling units in our 139 schools were working. We had issues at a couple of our campuses, but both were addressed immediately. Special thanks to our tiny (fewer than 30) but mighty A/C team.

Kudos to our food services professionals who, on average, are serving up 67,000 breakfasts/lunches a day. Extra credit to that group for sound financial practices that freed up operational dollars now being used to cover the cost of school breakfast and lunch for all students who qualify under the federal school meals plan. That means about 7,000 students who normally qualify for reduced-priced meals will receive them at no cost to their families.

The news gets better when you factor in a gift from the APS Education Foundation that wipes out the previous meal debts owed by families who qualify for reduced-price meals but were carrying an unpaid balance.

Our teachers, principals, custodians, secretaries, technology techs, nurses, counselors, social workers and all other support staff also have been terrific.

As you know, the majority of our teachers spend a good chunk of their summer preparing for the new learning year ahead. One new initiative they are eager to delve into is a switch from textbooks to “techbooks” in all science classes. The “techbooks” are part of a curriculum partnership with Discovery Education, a leader in online education delivery. The idea is to let students learn the way they live, and in this day and age that involves technology.

Online education is up to date and relevant, incorporating current issues into the curriculum so they no longer depend on history textbooks that don’t mention 9/11 or science textbooks that list Pluto as a planet. The techbooks are more affordable than textbooks and next year will find their way to high school social studies students.

By the way, we’re always exploring new opportunities to involve parents and the community as volunteers in our schools. That, too, should be more inviting now. Because safety is always our first concern, we require background checks for all volunteers who will spend one-on-one time with our students. APS this year has cut the cost of the background check to $12, down $6 from the past two years and more than $20 from three years ago. Long-term, we hope to eliminate this cost altogether, but that’s a funding issue that isn’t yet within our reach.

Finally, a big thanks to our transportation department. APS runs more than 400 buses daily, moving more than 38,000 students to some 140 locations. Day after day the students enjoy safe and timely transportation from their homes to school and back. We’ll have a few glitches along the way, but for the most part our transportation team rocks.

We can’t begin to tell you how excited and honored we are to have our students back this year. Our promise to you is to continue to do everything possible to make the school year engaging and meaningful so that our students will have the skills, confidence and drive to live their dreams.

Special thanks to all the dedicated Albuquerque Public Schools employees who work so hard to keep students’ dreams alive.

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