Sidney Gutierrez Schools, a public charter school in Roswell, is a shining example of how providing educational options for families across New Mexico can change lives.
Sidney, as it is commonly known, opened as a charter middle school in 2001 and expanded to serve grades K-8 in 2020, with 22 students per grade level. In response to strong community demand for the school to serve more students, Excellent Schools New Mexico provided startup capital to help Sidney expand to grades K-8.
Sidney consistently ranks among the top 1-5% of all public schools in New Mexico and is a New Mexico Public Education Department-designated “Spotlight School.”
Yasine Armstrong, formerly the president and currently the vice-president of the school’s governing council, attributes its durable success to its unusual approach to improvement, which she likened to tech start-ups she has launched.
“Charter schools are potentially the startups of education,” she said. “The whole point is to be able to pivot quickly when you find things that are working and things that are not working, and that’s something Sidney has been really good at from the outset.”
Sidney is authorized by the Roswell Independent School District and has a strong and positive working relationship with district officials and the school board, Armstrong said. The school has an agreement with the district to receive business services from the district, rather than hiring staff to run business operations internally.
Sidney’s sustained excellence in an isolated area where other options are less desirable has created pressure to expand the school. Armstrong said that, given the waitlist, Sidney could easily double its size. But the school leadership has resisted that temptation.
“We face the challenges that other schools and districts face as well,” she said. “We have challenges with recruiting and retaining teachers, and we continue to have challenges with facilities. So, we feel strongly that we do not want to do anything to harm the integrity of our academic program, and potentially doubling the size of the school will just add a whole new layer of challenges.”