Letter To The Editor: Loss Of Superintendent Hurts Students
By Roger Montoya
On Wednesday April 6, Espanola Public Schools lost yet another superintendent with the resignation of Bobbie Gutierrez. As a committed member of this community for 25 years, I am deeply concerned and frustrated with our Northern New Mexico school district. I have spent years helping our youth in this community. I served as the founder and coordinator of the Fine Arts in the Schools integrated program for 12 K-6 elementary schools from 2003-2011. In 2012, I helped to initiate a successful K-8 state charter school with La Tierra Montessori School for the Arts and Sciences and I currently drive the Moving Arts Española after school program that serves more than 300 children each week.
This latest debacle not only hurts our young people, who are the victims of our systematic underachievement and dysfunction within this school district, but also our entire community. (The Española School Board has hired and fired six different leaders since 2010 in just seven years.)
The loss of Ms. Gutierrez is particularly disturbing. The press has emphasized that this is all in regards to the basketball coach having players pray before a game. (Prayer in school is against the law as it violates the separation of Church and State. (see Engel v vitale 1962)) Yet, the reality is that Superintendent Gutierrez was upholding school policy. In addition, her skill in managing the confidentiality surrounding serious personal issues in regards to this coach’s behavior towards our young people, demonstrates the courageous kind of leadership this region needs. Ms. Gutierrez chose to do what was right for our students, even if it meant losing her position.
The behavior of three of the five Española School Board members this week is another stark reminder of the shortsighted leadership that has plagued this region for many generations. The purpose of any school board is to build a healthier educational system and to keep our children safe from both emotional and physical harm as best they can. Unfortunately, the majority of this board and so many in recent elections have proven that a lack of vision, experience, and the intelligence to make the systemic changes needed to a broken system, have simply failed our student’s most basic needs.
As a leader Gutierrez did not shy away from tough issues. Instead, she found ways to think outside of the box in order to help those young people who needed it most. In just one year, Gutierrez addressed school suspension with creativity. She moved away from punitive driven modalities to those that support the behavioral health and well-being of young people who with the current system seem headed toward early incarceration instead of graduation.
One way she did this was creating the Saturday Academy, and in doing so we were just beginning to turn the tide on truancy. She was laying the groundwork for alternative educational settings for a growing population of young people who are desperate for a path that could include comprehensive social emotional wellness, addiction recovery intervention, vocational opportunities and job skill training.
She supported the Student Pledge Against Gun Violence as a positive way to address violence in our schools thus ensuring our students have a voice when it comes to their safety. Last fall, she initiated an award winning ‘Cooking With Kids’ pilot program at three elementary schools that uses a hands on bilingual curriculum to teach family centered nutrition education.
These are just a few of the insightful methods Ms. Gutierrez implemented in the short time she was with us. Those of us that had the honor to work with Ms. Gutierrez know how deeply she cared for our children. Bobbie served as superintendent with courage, heart, intelligence and grace.
She will be greatly missed.
Arts in Education Advocate