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Posted November 2, 2018

Peer Support

In her weekly message, Supt. Reedy talks about the benefits of being a member of the Council of the Great City Schools.

There’s nothing like getting together with your peers to bounce off ideas, commiserate a bit and affirm the work you are doing. That’s what a couple of board members, co-workers and I did last week when we attended the annual Council of the Great City Schools conference.

The Council is a coalition of 70 of the nation’s largest urban public school systems including APS that provides opportunities to network, exchange ideas and solve problems in order to deliver the best possible education for the millions of students we collectively serve. We share ideas on improving curriculum, research and testing, finance, operations, personnel, technology, legislation, communications and more. 

As the largest school district in New Mexico representing a fourth of the state’s students, APS faces challenges that many smaller districts may not. Honestly, we probably have more in common with our counterparts in Anchorage, Dallas and El Paso than we do with Gadsden, Farmington or Texico.

That is confirmed every time I meet as a member of the Council’s executive committee with top educators from the country’s largest urban school districts including New York City, Denver, Austin, Portland and Philadelphia.

We grapple with a number of issues including mental health and suicide, technology, attendance, poverty and funding. At the annual conference, for example, we learned that between 55 and 60 percent of nation’s schools are Title I. In APS, that number is even greater – more than 70 percent of our schools serve mostly students whose families struggle to make ends meet. As the needs of these students and families escalate, funding at both the state and federal level has decreased, putting school districts like ours in a financial quagmire.

Accountability was another hot topic among our Great City School partners. As in New Mexico, our sister school districts notice that school grading reports often align with socioeconomic statistics and poverty. Schools identified as failing in these large urban districts must also submit plans for restructuring, redesign and turnaround. Each district talked about the importance of local control and community engagement as the heart of school turnaround. Some common themes heard in school turnaround design included positive school culture, wraparound services for students, smaller classes, community partnerships and more time for teacher collaboration and professional development.

We also come together to talk about ways to move towards a new reality of equity and intentional diversity. Like APS, schools in large urban school districts are continuously looking for ways to engage their families and communities to drive positive change in the schools.

I am sure you can appreciate the importance of peer support. Whether you are a teacher or principal, cafeteria or maintenance worker, you understand the value of having a sounding board, of getting advice from someone in a similar position, of receiving affirmation that you are on the right track.

That is the role the Council of the Great City Schools plays in my professional life and in the jobs of many leaders in Albuquerque Public Schools. I appreciate the support. I appreciate all of your support, too. It means the world to me.

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