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Superintendent's News

Posted: February 12, 2021

APS Honors Black History Month

In his weekly message to employees, Supt. Elder writes about Black History Month.

It feels like every message I’ve shared over the last year has been about the pandemic because it’s still with us, but finally, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We can’t lose sight of the virus’ impact on our school community, nor should we let it consume us to the point we forget to celebrate important events like Black History Month. 

February is the month we designate to celebrate the beauty, diversity, strength, and intellectual contributions our black community continues to bring to our lives. Black History Month is critical to public education, where we bring together students, families, and employees who represent a world of cultures, talents, and values. 

It is in our classrooms, board rooms, auditoriums, offices, gyms, and cafeterias that we develop relationships with one another. Sometimes, without even knowing it, those fundamental interactions bring change. Conversations lead to friendships. Friendships provide access to lifestyles and beliefs otherwise unknown. People of all races and cultures talk, listen and learn empathy.

This is one example of the pivotal role public schools play in creating cultural competency. Because our schools and offices reflect our communities, our schools and support sites become cultural hubs that students and families depend on for much more than an education.

 People in all settings benefit when they find safe spaces to speak freely and be heard. We thrive when we know we are valued, welcomed, and respected. Our job as educators is to pay attention to what our students, staff, and families show and tell us they need. From there, we can find ways to utilize available tools, systems, resources, and talents to help our students and each other realize our dreams.

 I know what you’re thinking - this sounds great in theory, but it’s not enough. I agree.

Black History Month reminds us equity has to be intertwined in everything we do. As a district, we have taken the first of many meaningful steps to ensure more academic opportunities for minority students. We need more of our minority students to take advantage of advanced placement, gifted and dual credit classes. We need our black, brown, and minority students to apply for college at a greater rate and ultimately gain acceptance to the colleges of choice. 

At the same time, we need to see a decrease in the number of minority students who experience suspension and other punitive disciplines at a disproportionate rate. Systemic change can only happen when our students have equitable access to academic opportunities and we pay attention to the injustices we control so they can be addressed.

We couldn’t host large group celebrations right now, so the district’s Office of Equity and Engagement created a Black History Month Online Resource Material library for everyone to access. The selection is for Pre-K - 12 students to learn more about African American history and the significance of this month.

In partnership with the African American Legislative Council, APS will be sending elementary, middle, and high school students to “virtually”  attend the African American Legislative Day at this year's legislative session.  Students will be able to speak directly with state representatives and learn more about the legislative process.  

At the administrative level, we are engaged in self-reflection. We’re asking what policies, procedures, and unwritten practices that evolved might be contributing to the barriers some staff and students face. How can we use that information to design a more equitable experience for everyone? 

We explored those questions and others with invested stakeholders and ultimately created an Equity Framework the New Mexico Public Education Department approved. The Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education later approved an Equity Policy and Equity Procedural Directive that outlines school and district commitments to address racism and support a more inclusive district. 

Professional development tops our commitment priority list. As humans, we all have biases. Understanding the roots of belief systems and addressing them without judgment is necessary for developing cultural competency. 

 As a culturally and linguistically responsive district, we are committed to anti-racism training for all employees. All principals, district leadership, and principal support specialists have completed the training with the local company, ARTI,  also known as the Anti-Racism Training Institute of the Southwest. Teachers, assistant principals, department, and support staff are all scheduled to follow.

Black History Month is a unique time in which we are encouraged to talk about race and equity. My experience is that most people are generally uncomfortable discussing race. We have to find the courage to keep talking. We must keep doing our part to rise above a difficult past if we want to create a better future.

To learn more about district strategies to address past and present-day race concerns, please visit:

 The Office of Equity & Engagement

Curriculum and Instruction - Resources That Support Diverse Viewpoints