Education secretary celebrates success of three Farmington schools

Schools earned an A school grade this year from state

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
New Mexico Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski sits next to Darius Begaye in Dena Leboeuf's fifth-grade classroom at Country Club Elementary on Wednesday in Farmington. Ruszkowski visited three Farmiington schools that were awarded an A school grade.
  • New Mexico Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski visited Country Club, Mesa Verde and Ladera del Norte elementary schools.
  • The visit is part of the New Mexico True Straight-A Express, which celebrates the state's highest-performing schools.
  • Two teachers were presented with a $5,000 Excellence in Teaching Award.

FARMINGTON — A tour of three Farmington elementary schools by the New Mexico education secretary earlier this week gave the schools' staff members and students an opportunity to celebrate their performance in the school grade program.

New Mexico Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski visited Country Club, Mesa Verde and Ladera del Norte elementary schools on Wednesday as part of the New Mexico True Straight-A Express. The secretary is in his second year of touring New Mexico's highest-performing schools and celebrating their performance.

Country Club and Mesa Verde earned an A school grade for the fourth straight year while Ladera del Norte earned its third A school grade in four years, according to Ruszkowski.

San Juan College High School is the fourth school in the Farmington school district to earn an A school grade this year.

“We are thrilled to welcome back Secretary Ruszkowski to our schools and to celebrate the great accomplishments of our students and teachers,” Farmington schools Superintendent Gene Schmidt stated in a press release.

The arrival of Ruszkowski and his staff was delayed at his first stop at Country Club due to traffic issues, according to Farmington district spokesperson Renee Lucero.

Students had gathered for an assembly and were released back to their classrooms.

To make up time, Ruszkowski visited two classrooms, and an assembly was not held at Country Club.

New Mexico Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski, right, signs his notes for fourth-grade student Tristen Rivera during a visit to Ladra del Norte Elementary School on Wednesday in Farmington.

"You are in a very, very rare group of schools across the state of New Mexico," Ruszkowski told students in Dena Leboeuf's fifth-grade classroom.

Schmidt, school board President Kyle Rhodes and Country Club principal Shannon Waller helped unveil Country Club's 2018 A school grade banner.

There were assemblies held outside at Mesa Verde and Ladera del Norte, where Ruszkowski unveiled each school's A school grade banner.

The Piedra Vista High School cheer team and Panteraz dance team performed at the Mesa Verde assembly, while the Farmington High School Band and Kelly Greens dance team were at the Ladera del Norte assembly.

During each assembly, Ruszkowski had the students applaud their "awesome" teachers and principals for the school's performance.

Ruszkowski told Ladera del Norte students and staff members the school is already meeting the state education department's goal of having 50 percent of students proficient in math and reading by 2020, as 56 percent of students at the school were proficient in reading, and 50 percent are proficient in math, according to state education department data.

Two teachers, Amy Dumas at Mesa Verde and Mindy Small at Ladera del Norte, were presented with giant novelty checks for being teachers who earned an Excellence in Teaching Award.

Each received an award of $5,000 as both teachers earned exemplary and highly effective ratings in the NMTEACH teacher evaluation system.

The new program was launched earlier this month by Gov. Susana Martinez.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at

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