Winter 2020: What We’ve Been Up To

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It was a busy end to 2019 for Excellent Schools New Mexico!

We made a pair of new grants to two promising, innovative New Mexico public schools. We led our 6th out-of-state learning trip, this time to San Antonio. And we continued to provide ongoing, intensive support to local educators committed to growing game-changing schools that prepare all students to thrive in the 21st century.

Check out some of our work below.

Meet our Newest Partner Schools!

Hózhó Academy - Gallup

Hózhó Academy opened in August 2018, and this fall, Excellent Schools New Mexico made a grant to the school to catalyze its expansion to approximately 700 students in grades K-12. The school was co-founded by Gallup residents, educators and civic leaders Rachael Mason, Patrick Mason and Rita Yazzie. Hózhó’s co-founders developed the school with the assistance of the well-respected Barney Charter School Initiative, which supports the launch of quality, classical charter schools throughout the country.

Hózhó aims to provide a rigorous classical education – focused on the liberal arts and sciences, moral character and civic virtue – to McKinley County students from all backgrounds. With promising academic results and a racially and socioeconomically diverse student body, it’s clear that Hózhó’s co-founders and staff have created a school model that Gallup families want. At present, the school already enrolls over 300 students and maintains waiting lists in nearly all grades.

Solare Collegiate Charter School -
Southwest Mesa, Albuquerque

Solare Collegiate Charter School opened in August 2019 with approximately 140 students in grades 5-6 and will grow to serve 460 students in grades 5-8. The school was founded by New Mexico educator Rachael Sewards, who was an ‘Exemplary’ teacher at Cochiti Middle School in Peña Blanca and served as a founding middle school teacher at The ASK Academy in Rio Rancho. Solare Collegiate aims to provide an academically rigorous, character-focused education through an innovative extended middle school model.

Excellent Schools New Mexico made an initial grant to support Rachael’s participation in the highly-selective Building Excellent Schools fellowship, which trains skilled educators to build and lead high-achieving, college preparatory urban charter schools. We then made a follow-on grant to Solare Collegiate to help fund the school’s startup costs. We feel fortunate to back Rachael, her board and her staff as they create a high-quality, community-focused school for the Southwest Mesa.
At full-scale, our current portfolio of partner schools will serve more than 3,500 New Mexico students annually. These schools cumulatively serve a higher percentage of low-income, minority and English-language learner students than the state as a whole and serve a similar percentage of students who require Special Education services. In 2018-19, students in our partner schools were nearly 3x as likely to be proficient in reading and math as students in similar schools, and our Albuquerque partner schools more than quintupled student proficiency rates over the course of the year.

Learn More About Our Trip to San Antonio

In October, we led a delegation of nine New Mexico legislators, business leaders, nonprofit executives and funders to visit the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD), a large urban school district on the rise. To better understand SAISD’s recent successes, and why educational outcomes have improved throughout San Antonio, we met with SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez and SAISD Board President Patti Radle; visited Gates Academy, a SAISD Innovation school that’s overseen by a nonprofit board; visited IDEA Public Schools – San Antonio, a high-performing charter school network; and met with Texas state Representative Diego Bernal (D) and other local education leaders.

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At Excellent Schools New Mexico, we believe that the biggest determinant of a district’s – and a school’s – success is the quality of executive- and board-level leadership. In San Antonio, we met with a superintendent and school board president who articulated a clear vision of what success looks like and designed district-wide systems that aligned with that vision. We met with a district principal who possessed the autonomy to make changes at her school, transforming it from the lowest performing school in SAISD to one of the highest. And we met with district and charter leaders who create schools that parents actually want, including district-authorized charter schools and Innovation Schools, which is exactly what our partner schools in New Mexico are doing and what we’d like to see more districts do in our state.

Here's What We're Reading

In last week’s Santa Fe New Mexican, MAS Charter School students Kenia Caballero and Byron Lueras Jr. penned an incredibly compelling opinion piece highlighting the need for quality public school options and how they’ve benefited from having these options. Kenia left MAS after becoming pregnant but later returned because of the school’s college-prep focus. This fall, Kenia will be attending Eastern New Mexico University on a full-tuition scholarship to study nursing.

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Byron felt destined to make the same mistakes as some in his family had but discovered his potential at MAS. Last fall, Byron applied to twelve colleges and has been accepted to every school he has heard from thus far. Post-graduation, Byron will be moving to Arizona to study computer information systems – on a $24,000 scholarship.

Excellent Schools New Mexico is a proud supporter of MAS Charter School and made a substantial grant to the school in 2018 to help it expand from one to two campuses in Albuquerque and alleviate its waiting list of 1,200+ students.

Last year, MAS recorded an 86% graduation rate, among the best in all of Albuquerque, while serving a student body that’s approximately 86% low-income and 89% students of color. 100% of MAS graduates leave school with a college or military acceptance.

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