Cariños Charter School At Home & Ready To Teach

Carinos de los Ninos spent $200,000 converting the former offices of the old Espanola Public School’s administrative offices into classrooms
Carinos de los Ninos spent $200,000 converting the former offices of the old Espanola Public School’s administrative offices into classrooms. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Cariños Charter School At Home & Ready To Teach

By George Morse

After a vagabond existence during the 10 years of its existence, Cariños de Los Ninos Charter School has found a permanent home in Española. Last year March 3, Cariños was granted ownership of the former administrative offices and warehouse of the Española Public Schools after the two entities reached a settlement concerning a lawsuit filed by Cariños against the School District claiming breach of contract. That made Cariños the only charter school in the state that owns its own facilities.

 A middle school grade classroom at the (finally) permanent location for Cariños. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

That was an end to a vagabond journey for a home for Cariños. Originally founded in 2005, the school started its first year at San Juan Catholic Church Parish by Father Terry Brennan and then principal Victoria Garcia. Its mission was then and still is to provide a bilingual model to promote academic achievement for at risk students. Initially, it incorporated agricultural programs, but no longer does. Originally serving just elementary students, it has expanded over the years and currently serves grades Kindergarten through 8th grade.

In 2008, Vernon Jaramillo was named Chancellor of Cariños, replacing Garcia. He is still Chancellor. The school was then moved in 2010 to the old Española Middle School East (formerly Española High School). Cariños and Española Public Schools entered into a six-year lease that would run until 2016.

Office manager Jennifer Lucero (left), Chancellor Vernon Jaramillo and transportation director J D. Martinez in the main office of Cariños de los Ninos. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

However, the state issued a restraining order against Cariños in 2014 preventing its students from attending classes at the Middle School after inspectors and the State Fire Marshall found the building was unsafe and recommend it be torn down.

Cariños maintained that the building was safe and that the problems the state found were ones they had requested Española Public Schools to fix.

Needing a place for its students, Cariños first relocated to buildings on the Northern New Mexico College campus in El Rito for about 9-10 weeks. Cariños was then moved to Mountain View Elementary School near Cordova, which had been vacated when it was consolidated with nearby Chimayo Elementary School. They occupied Mountain View for approximately 18 months. Although Española Schools provided transportation, the constantly shifting locations and difficulty parents had transporting their children led to a drop in enrollment at Cariños of approximately 60 students.

Cariños subsequently filed a lawsuit against Española Public Schools claiming breach of contract. The lease was a legally-binding contract and Española Public Schools was obligated to find facilities for Carinos. An agreement was reached where Española vacated their administrative offices and turned them over to Carinos. Española then demolished the Middle School and is building its new administrative offices in that location with a scheduled completion date of September. They currently use offices at Carlos Vigil Middle School as a temporary location.

Cariños is no longer associated with Española Public Schools and is now a state-contracted charter school. The school was granted a three-year contract with the State Public Education Commission Jul 1, 2016 until June 30, 2019.

After spending $200,000 to renovate the former administrative offices into classrooms and being granted a certificate of occupancy, Cariños opened its doors last year to 110 students.

Cariños de los Ninos received its Certificate of Occupancy in August, 2016 after taking ownership of the former administrative offices of Española Public Schools following the settlement of a lawsuit by Cariños against the Española Public Schools. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Because the enrollment fell under the number of students Cariños had projected, the school did not receive the amount of money it had expected, as schools are funded under a per-student basis. That and the $200,000 spent on renovation had the school considering filing a request for emergency funds. However, the request was never sent because it could be taken as an indication of fiscal mismanagement. That could lead to the Budget and Finance Analysis Bureau of the State Public Education Department recommending the school be closed.

In order to cut costs, Cariños eliminated the position of principal, which will be filled by Chancellor Jaramillo. It also eliminated a warehouse position. Its budget was recently approved by the State.

Chancellor Jaramillo continues to believe that Cariños fills a need for bilingual education and is preserving the culture of Northern New Mexico. He believes the new location will attract students.

Chancellor Vernon Jaramillo working at his desk. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

“It’s the only dual language school in the Española Valley and maybe in Northern New Mexico,” Jaramillo said. “Now that we are centrally located and accepting students, we’re open for business. We’re here to provide students from all walks of life the opportunity for academic achievement with a multi-cultural education and learn two languages.”

Jaramillo said historically, students in the region were discouraged from speaking Spanish.

“Kids were punished for speaking Spanish,” he said.

Cariños will supply transportation for students, including Abiquiu, Alcalde, Cordova and Chimayo. They serve breakfast and lunch. Jaramillo said that Cariños had 110 students last year and expects them all to return. He also hopes to add additional students that will boost enrollment to 125 students.

J. D. Martinez will coordinate the transportation for Cariños’ students. A veteran of 55 years of providing transportation to schools, he remembers when he attended public school.

“If I spoke Spanish, I got hit on the hand with a ruler,” Martinez said. “We were embarrassed to speak Spanish. Here, the children of the Valley can learn to be bilingual. It’s beautiful. The bottom line is the child. Here, they’re not a number. They have a name.”

Computers line the walls of a study area for students at Cariños de los Ninos. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post