For many, the 2016 election has been an extraordinarily emotional experience. People across our country and the world are excited about the presidential outcome, while others are feeling anxiety and fear. Here in the Santa Fe Public Schools, this election has not changed our beliefs, values or expectations.
Our District stands together with our families. We believe in creating school communities that demonstrate unconditional regard and respect for everyone. We are called upon to be compassionate and respectful of others and to reflect on our own feelings; to provide support to those who are experiencing high levels of stress and trauma; to create school communities that are welcoming, predictable, and safe. We know that in order for our students to achieve their potential, schools must continue to keep the focus on teaching and learning while ensuring that our students feel safe, secure, and welcomed.
Everyone within the school community plays an essential role in modeling responsible behavior, including students, teachers, other district personnel, parents, volunteers, and visitors. It is not enough just to uphold the Code of Conduct as policy. Rather, it is everyone’s responsibility to create opportunities for students to develop positive self-awareness and skills necessary to demonstrate responsible behavior. It is our duty to teach children and youth how to settle arguments without resorting to name calling and violence, as well as encourage them to use peaceful means when resolving issues.
As a district we believe there is no place for hate and we will firmly discipline those who seek to intimidate, bully, harass, or create a school environment which might cause any student, employee or group to feel intimidated or ill-treated.
Our school community is as strong as its relationships. We are encouraged by the outpouring of support from our community partners. We stand together to affirm that everyone matters. There are many school-based and community resources available to support our students and their families. Some ideas are highlighted in the resource document provided to support our students and families.
Specifically, I’d like to draw your attention to some immediate actions we’ve taken to further ensure that all of our students have a positive school experience:
We have established a Student Support Helpline. Students or parents may call 505-470-8806 to report incidences of bullying, harassment or events they believe may cause a disruption to the learning process;
We will broadly communicate that regardless of immigration status students who graduate from an accredited New Mexico High School or earn a GED are eligible for in-state tuition and the NM Lottery Scholarship;
We do not and will not collect information regarding students immigration status nor will we allow unlawful access to our students in our schools;
SFPS has collaborated with community partners to create a safe space for immigrant children/families and advocates to meet once a week in the evening for support and information dissemination;
We have established a Superintendent’s Equity Advisory Council. The Council will have representatives from various stakeholder groups. This Council will have ad hoc committees who will take on particular areas of focus that pertain to our students and families such as: Immigrants, LGBT, Native American, Special Education, etc.;
We will continue to provide focused professional development for our teachers and staff on dealing with emotional trauma, and how to have respectful conversations about highly emotionally charged issues in a manner that is safe for all students;
Teachers and school counselors teach from a universal curriculum to build skills around empathy, anger management, impulse control, problem solving and social skills. Children learn the importance of creating a caring community. They also learn about bullying and how to stand up for themselves and others.
Principals will be encouraged to devise ways for students to report issues of bullying/ harassment in a manner that protects the personal safety of the informant;
We will explore the reallocation of resources to provide an immigrant student support ombudsman for the District;
And, The Associate Superintendent for School Support, Equity, and Community Engagement and his team will work with his staff and schools to provide the resources and support schools’ need.
In closing, it is my belief that the institution of public education is the bedrock of our Democracy. This is the time for healing and coming together to find common ground. I have every confidence that our school district and our community will demonstrate to our Nation that our diversity is our strength and it is our diversity that makes the United States of America one of the greatest nations in the world. I’m confident that our Santa Fe Community will continue to celebrate its diversity and support ALL of its children and families.
Veronica C. Garcia, Ed.D.
Superintendent, Santa Fe Public Schools