An early American philosopher and educational reformist once cautioned us about doing things the same way in the classroom: If we teach today's students as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow. John Dewey could never have predicted the challenges our public education system has been met with over the last few years, but his words still hold profound meaning today. As we continue to reinvent our classrooms in a post-covid world, one thing needs to stay at the forefront - we cannot continue doing things the way we once did.
At Las Cruces Public Schools, our classrooms are off to a productive and happy start to the new school year. I use the word "happy" because I have seen it first-hand. Our students are reconnecting with their friends in an environment that resembles what they remember in early 2020. Teachers are coming to me with enthusiastic plans for classrooms and activities. This job has never been easy, but it is easily one of the most rewarding.
Recently, I presented plans for our district to our state leaders, both at the Legislative Finance Committee and the Legislative Education Study Committee (LESC). One of the more collaborative things we are doing at LCPS is giving a voice to our stakeholders in the budgetary planning process. The way we develop our fiscal year budget for consideration by the Board of Education has never been more transparent. Soon we will begin gathering feedback from our community, members of our administration, our union representatives, and parents. You will get the opportunity to provide input as well. Keep an eye out for surveys related to the budgetary process on our website and social media pages.
After we have heard from stakeholders, we will host another Budget Town Hall meeting. Historically, these are not widely attended, but it is a valuable part of the process if you want to understand how dollars are spent in your public education system. Following the town hall meeting, the budget will be presented to our Board of Education for approval.
Funding for schools is something everyone should pay attention to, and the information is readily accessible on our website under the Finance Sunshine Portal. Part of that funding includes federal dollars that we are spending on covid-related mitigation strategies. We are expanding our Virtual Learning Academy, installing full HVAC replacement systems at seven of our school sites and our HVAC control systems are being replaced districtwide. Sometimes the best ventilation system is being in the beautiful New Mexico air when the weather is nice, and to accommodate that, we are working to install outdoor learning spaces at all LCPS campuses.
Another exciting investment we made in our students is providing them with 24/7 online tutoring assistance in multiple languages. This service launched last week and the support it provides for our students is just as much a benefit for parents. How many of us have been asked to assist with eighth grade algebra, only to realize we do not remember enough to be helpful? This tutoring service will save you. Ask your kids about it – they can find it on the Canvas portal.
How we have been doing things looks a lot different than how things are going today in Las Cruces Public Schools. It is a promising forecast for our students’ future.
Ralph Ramos is the superintendent of schools at Las Cruces Public Schools.