Marquez emphasizes ‘Loyal and True’ approach

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Students throughout the southern part of Valencia County are probably feeling a little summertime sadness right about now, as the beginning of school edges ever closer.

Come Monday, Aug. 18, buses will be rumbling down the highways and byways, and parents will be asking where the other shoe went.

Ron Marquez Belen Schools superintendent

But have no fear, bus pick up times and start times are remaining the same as last year in the Belen Consolidated Schools, said Superintendent Ron Marquez. Those small things are part of a larger, over-arching goal for he and his administrators, the superintendent says.

After an administrative retreat last month, Marquez said the staff put a lot of thought on how they wanted to approach the coming year. The result was kind of a theme, borrowed from the Belen High School song, “Loyal and True.”

“We want that to carry through the year,” Marquez said. “Last year, we had a lot of challenges. Most of our employees stayed on and we are thankful for that, so we want to remain loyal and true to them. Across New Mexico you see this mass exodus of teachers. We didn’t; we’re in a very fortunate position, we’ve been stable.”

Other districts, such as Albuquerque Public Schools, are looking to hire hundreds of teachers before the school year starts.

While staying loyal and true in many respects, one new things this year across the district and the state is the transition from the Standards Based Assessment test to PARCC, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers which is an assessment aligned with the Common Core State Standards.

Last year the district was able to get something of a jump start on the PARCC testing by volunteering to be part of the state’s pilot program. Since the test will be administered online only, this allowed the district to load test it’s computer infrastructure to make sure when testing begins this year it will go smoothly.

Marquez called those kinds of standardized tests just a “snap shot” of a particular school.

“They are just a one-time look at the situation,” he said.

“A lot of times during the year, for whatever reason, the grades at a particular school don’t truly reflect what’s going on in the classroom,” said Joann Carter, one of the new co-directors of curriculum and instruction for the district.

After some confusion last year, the state Public Education Department decided to let the districts decide whether marching band and ROTC participation can county as substitute physical education credits.

Marquez said the Belen district will continue to count those activities toward PE credits.

“We still encourage students to take a PE class,” he said. “There are abilities and skills taught there that are separate from just physical activity.”

Something else that is staying the same is the district’s cyber-bullying hotlines. If students feel they are being bullied via social media, text or email, they can call the hotline — there are five in all — for their school to make a report.

Another change this year is kind of behind the scenes at central office. With the departure of Geneva Nixon, the director of curriculum and instruction, Marquez said the board agreed to let Marquez name two directors to the position.

Matt Williams and Joann Carter, the former principal at Infinity High School and assistant principal at Belen High School respectively, will be sharing the duties.

“Geneva did an amazing job, but there are a lot of details going on,” Marquez said. “They are doing a great job working together.”

Carter said wanted to encourage all parents to try to participate in their respective school’s site council.

“We have a hard time attracting parents to these councils, and I know they are busy, but these are so important. It gives us all a opportunity to come together and talk about issues before they become big problems,” she said. “The more input we have, the better we can grow the relationships with the community, share ideas and talk things out.”

Being active in the site councils also gives parents the opportunity to get to know the teachers and principals at the school, Marquez said.

“That way if there is some kind of dispute, they are comfortable going to the staff at the school,” he said. “I have to be honest, if parents start by coming to central office, nine times out of 10 they are sent back to the site principal.”

And parents might see the superintendent out at the schools more often this year.

“That’s a personal goal for me, to get to the sites more regularly,” Marquez said. “I had some health issues last year that slowed me down, but I’m back, feeling better and I want to get out and engage the students more.”

He continued, saying he was asking his upper administration to do the same.

“They won’t be there to evaluate, but to observe and support,” Marquez said.