Education Matters: Public Education Department Secretary-Designate Ryan Stewart Addresses Chamber Event on Public Education Priorities and Goals

education matters

Chamber President & CEO Terri Cole moderates a Q&A session with New Mexico Public Education Secretary-Designate
Ryan Stewart at this week’s Education Reform Bold Issues Group event

On Wednesday, the Chamber hosted New Mexico Public Education Department Secretary-Designate Ryan Stewart at its 2019 Education Reform Bold Issues Group (BIG) event at the Embassy Suites in Albuquerque. Secretary-Designate Stewart spoke to business, community, and educational leaders about his background as an educator and his plans to overhaul the state’s oversight of schools, to reform the process for licensing teachers and school leaders, and to seek more funding for at-risk students from the legislature.

Unirac, Inc. CEO and the Chamber’s Education Reform BIG Vice Chair Peter Lorenz noted in his introduction of Secretary Stewart that prior to being selected for his role by Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham earlier this year, Stewart earned his doctorate in educational leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, served as regional executive director of Partners in School Innovation in Philadelphia, and ran the Philadelphia School District’s Office of School Improvement and Innovation.

Secretary-Designate Stewart noted his agreement with the Chamber’s view that “demography is not destiny” and belief that all children can succeed academically regardless of socio-economic background. He also spoke at length about the state’s need to focus resources and intervention efforts on at-risk students in line with the ruling in the Yazzie lawsuit, which found that New Mexico was failing to meet its constitutional duty to provide a uniform and sufficient education.

Stewart also spoke to the need to streamline and improve the state’s administration and oversight of funding in the wake of a substantial increase in funding from the legislature in the 2019 session, and the logistical and programmatic difficulties some districts have had in implementing extended learning programs and interventions for at-risk students.

Among those in attendance at the event were Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Raquel Reedy, APS School Board President David Peercy, School Board Member Peggy Muller-Aragon, and Senator Bill Tallman of Albuquerque.

Secretary-Designate Stewart also spoke about early childhood programs as part of the solution to New Mexico’s education challenges, describing the work of the new Early Childhood Education and Care Department as central to reducing adverse childhood experiences and making sure children enter school ready to succeed. He then took questions from attendees, including one on his view of charter schools in the state. Stewart responded by arguing that the charter system was envisioned at least in part as a laboratory for academic and administrative innovation, and — while some schools demonstrate success with new programs and systems — not enough is being done to ensure the flow of ideas between charters and traditional district schools.

“The Chamber has long believed that improving education in Albuquerque and New Mexico depends on accurately and consistently measuring student achievement, developing and empowering effective school and district leaders, and providing as many high-quality options for families as possible,” said Chamber President and CEO Terri Cole. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Public Education Department and Secretary Stewart to achieve those goals, so that every student in our community has access to an excellent education.”

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