Commentary: Schools superintendent has his say about 24/7 Wall Street survey

Gene Schmidt, Ph.D.
Farmington Municipal Schools

I get it. Everyone has the right to their opinion. Such was the case for the Delaware corporation 24/7 Wall St., which contributes insightful online opinions on a wide variety of topics, including the 25 Worst Tasting Beers in America. 
Most recently, 24/7 Wall St. opined an “…index to identify the 25 worst U.S. metro areas in which to raise a child.
You guessed it; Farmington made the list at number 2. Thank goodness for Fairbanks, Alaska, or our city would have won the title. Curiously, 23 of the 25 worst cities were located in western and southern states. 
While I am not suggesting there was an East Coast bias, it struck me curious that “…only metro areas with some combination of high violent crime rates, low preschool enrollment rates, low high school graduation rates, and limited access to parks and recreational centers….”  appeared to be found west of the Mississippi or south of the Mason Dixon line.
The writer of the 24/7 Wall St. article used a collection of facts and figures to create a hurtful portrayal of our community. Having the right to my opinion, I offer these thoughts in retort. Farmington is not the 2nd worst city to raise a child. Rather, it is my opinion Farmington is a truly wonderful place to raise a child. 
Let’s consider contrasting opinions. The opinionated writer’s critical list of Farmington complaints included “…limited access to parks and recreation centers.” Visual reality strikes me differently. Farmington’s 57 community parks and recreational areas are in abundance, available, and accessible to all. The article writer criticized Farmington for spending, “…an average of $8,616 per pupil a year on education.”
Yes, when compared to the national average of $10,724, Farmington’s state funding is lower. As a school superintendent, I would welcome our state legislators’ commitment to raise school funding to the national average. In the meanwhile, I wondered aloud about how many school systems in America celebrated 80 percent or more of their schools with “A” or “B” grades. 
In addition, a soon to be released report by ThinkNewMexico, a results-oriented think tank, touts Farmington as their 2017 most efficient school district in New Mexico in general administration and central services and second most efficient district in the state when factoring in all non-classroom expenses. 
Simply stated, considering the cost to benefit, Farmington is the best in the state. Or, how about the opinion of NAMM, which named Farmington as a 2017 Best Communities for Music Education. 
Perhaps the only 24/7 Wall St. opinion I agreed with was their stated concern for Farmington’s high school graduation rate of 71.8 percent. Our community should expect more and our students deserve better. As such, I am working on this problem and will be collaborating with teachers, school leaders and students on strategies to develop better pathways to graduation. 
In closing, Farmington is a truly wonderful place to raise children. If you need one more reason to believe, just watch the sunset tonight. The dusk colors of New Mexico are truly enchanting. What you won’t see is an east coast high-rise building blocking your view. 
But, then again, it’s only my opinion.
Superintendent Eugene Schmidt oversees Farmington Municipal Schools.