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Superintendent's News

Posted: August 13, 2021

Different Yet the Same

Superintendent Elder's message to employees on the first week of school

 Lunch with New Mexico Education Secretary-Designate Kurt Steinhaus at Lowell Elementary School (Photo courtesy of NMPED)

Lunch with New Mexico Education Secretary-Designate Kurt Steinhaus at Lowell Elementary School (Photo courtesy of NMPED)

As I greeted students on the first day of school, walked beside them in crowded hallways, cheered with them at a pep rally, and drank chocolate milk alongside them in the cafeteria, an old expression came to mind: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Much focus lately has been on changes and adjustments needed to accommodate students during the pandemic. Understandably. But for all the disruption and chaos caused by the virus, our focus as educators has never wavered. That was evident this week as teaching and learning resumed in classrooms across Albuquerque Public Schools.

There was bell work, ice breakers, and get-to-know-you games. Students of all ages, sizes, and shapes took quick assessments, wrote introductory essays, problem-solved together, asked questions, laughed (or groaned) at corny jokes, sang fight songs, and shouted class chants. Friend reunited, newcomers were welcomed, colleagues lent a hand. 

Just like every other school year I have experienced.

I am grateful to all who helped get this school year off to a terrific start. Your hard work and dedication on behalf of the students and families of APS are greatly appreciated.

As smoothly as the opening went, it wasn’t without its hitches. Two of our most glaring problems, as usual, are hot classrooms and staff shortages. 

When Albuquerque temperatures soar during monsoon season, air conditioning problems are inevitable. I assure you we are working hard to address the issue. The good news is most of our nearly 21,000 units are working well. But if you’re in one of the classrooms where it isn’t, I understand your frustration. We’re on it, I promise. In the meantime, feel free to take a mask break by heading outside for a while (remember, masks aren’t required outdoors). Drink lots of water. Open doors and windows. Move to another part of the building if that’s an option. Do what you can to make yourself and your students a little more comfortable.

We are having trouble fixing air conditioning units as quickly as we would like because of a staff shortage – we are down to only nine HVAC technicians compared to more than 50 a few years ago. 

The labor shortage is a problem affecting all aspects of public education across the nation, a complex issue exacerbated by COVID-19. We’re doing what we can to find qualified bus drivers. We are reaching out to parents who might be interested in becoming substitute teachers. We’re partnering with UNM and CNM to educate more teachers, looking to educational assistants and professionals ready for a career change.

And we are working with colleagues at the state and national level who are facing similar challenges, including outgoing New Mexico Education Secretary Ryan Stewart and his successor, Kurt Steinhaus, who visited some of our schools on the first day.

I ask for your patience, understanding, and assistance as we do what we can to address these and other start-up glitches.

We knew that this school year would be challenging, just as it was last year, which is why returning employees will get supplemental compensation of up to $1,000 through a separate direct deposit next Friday, Aug. 20. The fact that you are still here, still fighting for our kids, even after the year we just experienced, has not gone unnoticed.

Thanks again for a great start to what promises to be an outstanding school year.