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Posted December 16, 2009

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November 2009: Thankful

This guest column appeared in the Albuquerque Journal.

I’ll be home for Thanksgiving this year. And by home, I mean here in Albuquerque. This community has become home for me and my wife Ann in large part because of the generous, supportive people we’ve come to know and appreciate.

Like the teachers and staff at our 139 schools, we’ve asked a lot of them in the past year and a half. We’ve asked for improved math and reading scores. We’ve asked for decreased truancy and dropout rates. We’ve put pressure on every employee who touches the lives of our students -- from kindergarten through senior year -- to strive for better graduation rates. 

Teachers, educational assistants, administrators and so many others in our schools are working harder than ever to help our kids succeed. And, more and more are succeeding. We’re seeing improved test scores, improved attendance rates, more students on track to graduate with their peers.

I’ve got to tell you, the kids deserve a lot of credit, too. I’ve seen so many of them step up to the plate and do what’s expected of them – if not more. Like the 700 high school students who are staying after school to make up credits they need to graduate on time.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t show appreciation for the parents and families of those kids. So many are working in partnership with our schools toward improving the educational experience for their children. 

These parents and families are part of a supportive community that consistently goes to bat for APS and its kids. I am thankful for those businesses, non-profit organizations and public agencies that contribute in-kind services and financial assistance to our schools with the ultimate goal of helping our students.

Our Join-a-School program just celebrated 25 years of success with a breakfast sponsored by long-time APS partners, the New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union and PNM. Join-a-School brings more than 1,000 business partners into schools around the district. The credit union’s “Seeds of Learning” grants also fund innovative classroom learning projects.

They are businesses like Sandia National Laboratories, which has contributed nearly half a million dollars to support our newest high school, nex+gen Academy. Intel also has contributed to the innovative, high tech magnet school by offering to pay for laptop computers for the first group of 240 students expected to start classes next fall.

Sandia and Intel, along with Don Chalmers Ford, were among the first businesses to contribute to the APS Education Foundation’s Horizon Campaign, a fundraising drive that aims to collect $1 million from private sources by the end of the school year. Each business pledged $50,000 to meet four major needs in APS – fine arts, literacy, mid-school/high school activities and classroom teacher mini-grants.

RayLee Homes: A New Generation, in partnership with the APS Sports Fund, is building the first-ever “Apple House” – a home that will be constructed and sold to benefit APS kids. The Apple House, still in its planning stages, is scheduled to start construction next spring.

Walmart donated $100,000 to mid-school activities earlier this year. Among the activities the grant is paying for a sports and mentoring program at Ernie Pyle Mid-School.

Qwest is a big supporter of our kids and teachers, donating $5,000 for the children and families of deployed soldiers and another $75,000 to help fund innovative technology in the classroom.

Photographer Frank Frost contributes his time and talent each year to take beautiful pictures of our Selfless Seniors, students who are recognized for giving back to their community.
I also am thankful for all of our APS employees who, despite these tough economic times, gave generously to the APS United Way campaign this year.
The list goes on and on. As the holiday season approaches, I will give thanks for so many blessings, especially for the people in this community who have helped make Albuquerque home.

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