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News from 2021-2022

Posted: January 3, 2022

Westside Elementary School is Model of Inclusivity

S.R. Marmon combines general education, Indian education, special education, dual language, English language development, enrichment, and gifted programs.

Note: Staff who support New Mexico lawmakers visited schools as they prepared for the 2022 legislative session. We are featuring some of the APS schools and programs they learned about.

Inclusion, diversity, and family involvement are at the heart of one APS elementary school’s mission to make a difference.

“I believe that when you walk in the door you should feel like you’re welcome here and this is home,” says María Cordero-Lujan, principal at Susie Rayos Marmon Elementary School, “not only for our staff and students but for the families and anyone who walks through the door. I believe in the family atmosphere.”

The school on Albuquerque’s West Side is home to 536 students and a wide variety of programs. S.R. Marmon is a rare model of inclusivity for its size, covering general education, Indian education, special education, dual language, English language development, plus enrichment and gifted programs. It’s also a hub for students in Social Emotional Support Services (SESS), drawing students from around the district who need a little more support in developing self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills.

Some people may expect the students to be somewhat compartmentalized according to their respective programs, but S.R. Marmon takes a different approach.

“It’s very important to us that they’re all integrated, and that they all share and get the same opportunities,” Cordero-Lujan says. “I want to continue the mixing of the students. Some of our SESS kiddos move to the general ed population because they have learned how to regulate their emotions and their behaviors. Having that peer mentorship with each other has been incredibly beneficial.”

Dr. Antonio Gonzalez, Associate Superintendent for Leadership and Learning for Zone 2, says, “The aim is to get some of our students in SESS exited out, and I think if there’s an example of a school that is doing that well, it’s S.R. Marmon. When you walk into a SESS classroom and you can’t tell the difference between it being SESS or gifted, you’re on to something.”

Principal Cordero-Lujan’s family atmosphere extends beyond the typical dynamics between teachers and students or teachers and parents, and often beyond the standard school hours. “We have several staff members who are parents of our students, and also live in the community,” she says. “We do monthly family-oriented events so we make sure there is something that brings the families in and welcomes them, and lets them be a part of the academic portion of their students’ lives. Every month we try and do something that is fun for the family, but also academically oriented.”

Diversity, inclusion, and family involvement are all part of the formula for success at S.R. Marmon, but so is the school’s application of restorative practices. Restorative practices are used to improve and mend relationships in classroom and school settings, usually through moderated dialogue that offers insightful perspective of all involved, and opportunities for atonement.

“This school has been a trailblazer and pioneer going back maybe five years in the student success center model around restorative justice practices,” says Dr. Gonzalez. “This school has been the site of several visits from other elementary schools over the years to see the approach the school has taken around restorative practices: wraparound services for those students, alternatives to suspension for those students. The approach used has been something that does intersect with the SESS program, but also for the general population as well.”

“We’re looking to do what’s in the best interest of kids,” Dr. Gonzalez adds. “I think what we are able to do as a school district in this setting is offer dynamic, comprehensive, deep supports for students with a broad range of needs in a very meaningful way.”