I’ve avoided writing on school issues for a number of weeks now, as the mere thought of doing so makes me want to slit my wrists and the wrists of anyone in razor blade proximity to me. Okay, that’s a pretty harsh image for 5:48 in the morning.
How about the mere thought of school issues has made me want to curl into the fetal position on the floor near my post-surgery dog and whimper in non-narcotic seizures of pain as I hold him desperately?
That doesn’t seem much better, and the same can be said for the new-fangled but really very old and tired idea of APS School Board denizen Robert Lucero regarding Del Norte and Sandia High Schools.
As noted in this fascinating KOB “story” from last night, both of these schools are literally falling apart and enrollment is dropping. So what is Lucero’s faux exciting idea here:
“The school board is considering the possibility of turning Del Norte High and Sandia High into magnet schools. It’s an idea that school board member Robert Lucero said should have been put in place a long time ago. ‘I think it’s a great idea, it’s long overdue that we need a magnet process for our high schools to keep our students motivated and keep them in school,’ said Lucero.”
The story goes on to say that school board members are batting ideas around like making a school a “film production” magnet school, in addition to the usual candidates: technology, science, fine arts, and sumo wrestling.
Very academically sexy sounding stuff, and in the antiquated thinking of APS positively “out of the box”. Kooky enough to be “charter school thinking” even. But before prospective public school families arrest the flight to the Westside that has played a bigger role in Sandia/Del Norte declining enrollment, let’s look at another “magnet school” done APS style.
Hayes Middle School is, as its web site states, “A Scientific Research and Technology Magnet School”. It’s located at the corner of Texas and Lomas N.E., at the edge of what was once known as the “war zone”, alongside I-40 and a bunch of car dealerships.
Enrollment at Hayes has been dropping for years, and its test scores have been bad for as least as long. I worked there back in the 90s, and we tried to make the best of a bad situation through a steady diet of public funding for technology stuff. Because the school had plenty of “poor” students, the Feds were happy to throw money at us for things like fancy network servers, and I, as “technology coordinator” (quotation marks most needed), dutifully filled out grant applications and called state legislators to get more money for computers, robotics stuff, GPS equipment and anything else that could be termed “technology”.
After I left in 2000 to experience my own hallucinatory trip through “Charter School Land”, Hayes officially became a “A Scientific Research and Technology Magnet School”, and had even more money thrown at it toward this purpose.
Maybe you didn’t know Hayes MS is a magnet school. Maybe you just remember seeing Hayes’ test scores in the paper and remember that the school is still “failing”. Maybe you don’t know anything about the school because the enrollment is still very low and going nowhere, even with new construction all around campus.
The bottom line is that Hayes is “A Scientific Research and Technology Magnet School” in name only. You can’t have a “magnet school”, if it has no magnetic pull. And one might argue marketing ideas like “magnet schools” have a real tough time succeeding when the District running them has demonstrated zero marketing ability. Less than zero.
APS can call every one of its institutions a “magnet school” if they want, but that doesn’t mean squat. What might really draw, or retain, students better? How about just being a good school? How about being a really good school? I would much rather the District, and its individual components, focus on the grinding, unsexy drive to bettering itself over the illusionary academic sexiness of something like a “film production magnet school”. And I say that as a teacher of a “film class”.
Okay, I’m going to lie back down on the floor with the post-surgery dog now, and reminisce about Hayes Middle School, the 1990s and having no gray hair. Ah, the Clinton years….