Education Secretary, Christopher Ruszkowski, Visits ASK on ‘A’ Express

October 15, 2018



Photo by Zanier Griego — New Mexico Secretary of  Education, Christopher Ruszkowski, talks to sixth graders about  The ASK Academy before the middle school assembly.

By Skylar Morales

On Thursday, October 6, the Secretary of Education, Christopher N. Ruszkowski, visited The ASK Academy as a part of the New Mexico-True Straight-A Express.

Ruszkowski, appointed to secretary of education by Governor Susana Martinez last year, has since visited over 200 schools across the state of New Mexico. This year, 150 schools out of the 850 across New Mexico scored an A as their school grade, and only 50 of those have scored A’s three years in a row, including The ASK Academy.  

On these visits, Ruszkowski speaks to teachers, students, and principals in an effort to understand what drives the success of every A school. “It builds momentum, energy, and confidence,” Ruszkowski said during his visit. “Too often we talk about things that are not going well. I thought the biggest part of my job was to talk about the things that are going well.”

During his visit to ASK, he presented The ASK Academy with a banner from the Public Education Department designating their A grade. The secretary also had an added reason for visiting. He stopped into the learning space of middle school Science teacher, Sandie Beaudet, a bonus check for $10,000 for being an exemplary STEM manager. Janisse Vazquez (MS Social Studies) and Daniel Barbour (HS Math) were also awarded bonus checks for being exemplary managers based on the teacher evaluation system.

Other managers and scholars had their own take on Secretary Ruszkowski’s visit and the awards. Dain Forsythe, an ASK high school English manager believes that “acknowledgement is important; it’s also a strong sign of good leadership,” Forsythe continued. “We know what we’ve achieved as a school, but to come personally and present that award was a strong sign of leadership.”

Ruszkowski shakes senior Charlie Erickson's hand during the high school assembly.

Photo by Zanier Griego — Ruszkowski shakes senior Charlie Erickson’s hand during the high school assembly.

Senior Max De Jong said that while it was nice that the Secretary pays attention to schools that have the ability to maintain an A, he felt the celebration was a lot for something that has now become standard at ASK. “I feel like he should be going to the schools that have lower grades and talking to them about what they could do better.”

“School grades are important to our parents, families, policymakers, taxpayers, and to all New Mexicans,” Ruszkowski stated. He said not only are these grades a cause for celebration but also a way to learn and a way to intervene when necessary.

“When you take a school that has earned a couple of D’s or F’s in a row, we’re able to provide more resources and more technical assistance,” the secretary said. 

Another manager, Chris Castilleja, a Spanish and World History teacher, also thinks that the New Mexico-True Straight-A Express benefits schools. “If he can see our education, our school at work and working, then when he goes to the legislature to talk to the powers that be, he can go on our behalf and get us funding that we desperately need.”

According to Ruszowski, Grade A Schools such as The ASK Academy show higher levels of academic excellence, have better graduation rates, and encourage the growth of every student. “They ensure that they reach every kid, so they differentiate their instruction to help every student grow,” he said. 

Another important part of A schools is the rigor and expectations placed on the students, Ruszkowski said. “I have asked kids across New Mexico how many hours of homework they do and they say zero. Then at The ASK Academy, they say two or three hours a night. That’s a huge difference in learning when you add up all those hours over the course of a year–that’s thousands of hours of learning–and that makes a huge difference.”

Ruszkowski said he sees New Mexico as “a state on the rise,” and said school grades are a way to give recognition and celebrate the schools that are going farther for the advancement of its students.


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