Following the New Mexico Public Education Commission’s decision not to renew the charter for the Taos International School, school director Nadine Vigil says she’s not going down without a fight.
After only three full years of operation, the school is asking the community and the New Mexico Public Education Department for a chance to show its progress and efforts to succeed as a charter school in Taos. Students at the Taos International School have been expressing their concerns to Vigil, who has promised to fight for the school's future.
Although the school recently received an F grade from the PED for the 2016-17 school year, Vigil says Taos International will truly shine in this year’s scores.
“The school will not close as long as I can help it,” Vigil said. “The students stood up and spoke about experiences at the school. The students feel important. We’re a family here.”
The school enrolls 205 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, with 24 full-time and six part-time employees at the school. As of 2015, Taos International operated on a slightly less than $600,000 budget which, according to Vigil, has increased a little due to a slight rise in enrollment.
The PEC held a public meeting Dec. 14 in Santa Fe to discuss the future of several charters in the state, including Taos International. Much of the room was filled in support of the school, according to Vigil.
Taos International School is trying to maintain its charter and has decided to file an appeal to the PEC to continue operations for the next school year. The appeal will have to be made 30 days after the PEC’s decision was formally delivered to the school, according to Vigil. She said the school lawyers are already at work. While working on the details, Vigil said she plans to have a hearing before PED Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski and hopes to have some results for parents by March.
“We’re not going to give up our fight, and we’re going to give it our best shot,” Vigil said. “Give us a chance to make the difference we want to make.”
Taos International School recently moved some of its classes into a new addition provided by property owner Francisco Cordova. It allows for eight additional classrooms to house the students on the 3.4-acre lot. Cordova said he paid for the construction on his property and decided to let the school use the building. After leasing the original building to the school, which Cordova rented out to various businesses in the past, he decided to take a chance and build the addition.
The addition brings the total square footage of the school to more than 24,000 square feet, a decision Cordova said he was glad to make.
“When Nadine started, there were a lot of kids that didn't have a place in the public school system and she picked them up,” Cordova said. “If the community has children who are willing to learn, and they give them the time and space, it just makes the community a better place, and that's why I took the risk.
Vigil said her students have been working hard during the 2017-18 school year and wanted a chance to show their improvement to the commission and PED. As the school was opened in 2014, Vigil said her third-graders who started as kindergartners are the prime example of the school’s programs.
These students have had the full experience of the school’s curriculum over the past three years and are the most accurate example of the school’s success, according to Vigil. Students who come from other schools at different grade levels may have to adapt to the alternative curriculum offered at Taos International.
Taos International School operates with a bilingual agenda for all students and offers language teaching in five languages at the school. The school has applied to participate in the International Baccalaureate curriculum and has been labeled as a “candidate school” for the program, according to Vigil. IB schools operate under a strict international curriculum as set by the organization. Vigil said the process to be accepted is often lengthy.
Vigil said she would keep her students and parents informed on the results of the hearings and appeal. Nothing is set at the moment, but as of the PEC decision not to renew the charter, the school faces a closure at the end of the school year, pending the final results of the appeal.