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Posted September 13, 2011

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September 2011: Students set big goals for APS to meet

This guest column appeared in the Albuquerque Journal.

Superintendent Brooks meets with Student Advisory Council members to plan for the coming year.

Determined to make this a successful school year, I turned to a group of experts for guidance. My advisers: members of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council, or what we call SuperSAC.

I’ve mentioned before this group made up of two students from each of our high schools who meet with me monthly to provide valuable input on tough issues facing Albuquerque Public Schools. Since forming the group a year ago, I’ve discussed with these students everything from legislation and policies to budget and bell schedules. We even took a trip to Santa Fe to meet with the governor, secretary of education and legislators.

This year’s SuperSAC, made up of returning members as well as several newcomers, met with me and some of our Board of Education members for the first time a couple of weeks ago. We spent time getting to know each other and outlining our plans for the year. We’ll be exploring such topics as district goals, teacher evaluations and the state’s emerging school grading system. In fact, I gave the students a homework assignment: Grade your own school and explain why it earned that grade. I’m looking forward to their feedback.

I reminded this energetic group of kids that they were chosen to serve on SuperSAC because they’re the type of students who get things done. Some of them are school leaders, most are good students, all are opinionated.

I value their opinions, so we asked the students to offer advice to other students, parents, teachers and the district for making this a good, productive school year.

Most agreed that open lines of communication, organization, preparation and motivation are keys to success. Cherise Nieto, a junior at Rio Grande High School, said her school planned for registration by sending home paperwork and draft schedules before school started. As a result, the school year got off to a smooth start with few scheduling problems.

Quwali Foster, a senior at Manzano, suggested that everyone do their job, and do it with passion. “Students need to be thorough and work on getting a good education. Teachers should motivate and inspire. Parents, keep kids on track and help them stay focused. And APS, stay open-minded. When you have problems, look for new solutions and new ways to solve them.”

Now that’s sound advice.

I appreciate that Quwali and many of the other SuperSAC members recognize the role we all play in student achievement. Manuel Marquez, a junior at the Early College Academy, said all of us can inspire student success, including students themselves. “I like to encourage other students, to motivate them to be successful,” he said. “There’s always hope. You have to aim for the best.”

Several of the students said they want to change the image of APS, particularly student and school stereotypes. “Remember that students aren’t statistics,” said Sheneille Wilson, a senior at Albuquerque High. “Treat us fairly and respect our differences, and don’t judge us or our school.”

Added Jack Hodge, a sophomore at La Cueva: “Sometimes it’s disheartening to hear all the bad things about APS. Some of it’s justified and worthy of negative attention. But I also wish the public could know more about the positive things that are going on in our schools. All schools have problems, but all have good things going on, too.”

I couldn’t agree more with Jack and Sheneille. One of my goals when I first became superintendent was to change the perception and build confidence in APS. Now we’re revisiting that and other district goals we set three years ago, and I encourage the public to participate in meetings we’re hosting over the next few weeks to gather public input.

Setting goals is important, as is reaching for those goals. As new SuperSAC member and Highland sophomore Sophie Bentham-Grey put it: “You need to know what you want, and then you need to work to achieve it.”

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