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EDITORIAL: Principal Mentoring Should Be Mandatory

The Albuquerque Journal

To riff on an old adage, the proof is in the principal.

New Mexico has many great school success stories with one common denominator: a great principal who made success possible.

Sometimes by being a cheerleader. Sometimes by being a list checker. Sometimes by being a social worker. But always by setting the bar high and emphasizing that everyone not only could, but would, clear it.

There's Anthony Elementary's Linda Perez, who has the halls lined with college pennants. There's Griegos Elementary's Tom Graham, who knows every student's name and so "we jump on problems." And there's George Bickert, who when he was principal at Tohatchi Elementary knew who his English learners were, which students were poor, what skills they lacked and what their test scores were.

Each of these schools has been recognized for academic achievement; their high poverty and low English-speaking rates are offered not as excuses but as testaments that the challenges are not barriers to learning.

So why shouldn't every principal have the opportunity to learn from someone who has not only walked in their shoes, but helped their school make great strides?

The Public Education Department is offering a new principal leadership program, "Principals Pursuing Excellence," based in part on a program devised at the University of Virginia, showing how leaders can use data to improve performance. About 14 mentors are helping 40 colleagues in New Mexico. It includes a stipend for the principals' time. Much of the sharing is done online. It's optional.

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And it should be mandatory.

New Mexico continues to struggle with statewide student proficiency rates around 50 percent for reading, 42 percent for math. Three out of 10 New Mexico students don't graduate high school in four years. And starting this year, principals as well as teachers will be evaluated on how their students progress.

So it only makes sense to set everyone up for success by making what has worked in some New Mexico schools available to everyone.

Anthony Elementary's motto is "No excuses!" That motto needs to go statewide, and history shows New Mexico principals are the ones who can make it happen.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers. ___

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