“An Extraordinary Legacy” “Albuquerque Journal

Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica García ends a 48-year career in public education that included two stints as superintendent in Santa Fe and several years as First Secretary of State for Education. (Eddie Moore / Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Although her last day of work was Friday, Santa Fe did not see the end of Veronica García.

Now a two-time former superintendent of Santa Fe public schools, García said she would return to the different city to launch the Kite Tail Foundation, a new non-profit organization that will work for homeless children.

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“The reason I chose this name is that a kite tail prevents a kite from turning. He keeps him in balance so he can soar, ”said García, 70.

The main focus, she said, will be to support children by providing them with various items that are not funded by schools – a scholarship application or a pair of basketball shoes, for example.

“There is also help and collaborative work with other organizations around public policy to better support homeless students,” she said, adding that through enrichment programs , homeless children may see a different reality that gives them hope.

Veronica García, then superintendent of public schools in Santa Fe, talks to educators about a bond issuance proposal that would improve the school district’s technological infrastructure. Voters approved the bail in an election in 2018 (TS Last / Albuquerque Journal)

It fits very well with how García has spent his entire 48-year career in education, which included two stints as superintendent in Santa Fe, plus an additional seven years in the capital as first secretary in the New Mexico Education. Hailing from Albuquerque, Santa Fe was a second home for García.

“It’s a special community,” she says. “The for-profit and non-profit community wants to work with schools, and we’ve grown it. It really is a great school district. The teachers are engaged and we have great community partners.

Larry Chavez, who served as associate superintendent of sports / activities and tutoring under García and will take over as the new head of schools on July 1, knows he has big shoes to fill.

“She’s such an amazing mentor,” said Chavez, who was hired by García as associate superintendent for athletics and activities in 2017. “One of the things is that she’s so detail-oriented. . She read everything and combed through to make sure every detail was covered.

Chavez said he doesn’t plan to make any major changes when he officially takes on the job.

“If it’s not broken, you don’t need to fix it,” he said. “Dr. García has laid a great foundation. We have a great team.

Kate Noble, president of the school board, said García not only brought her expertise to the post, she also brought heart.

“The metaphor of the heart is appropriate. She didn’t want to let things languish or be overlooked and also made it clear that schools are a social system. You can’t just be critical, you have to bring heart and creativity.

Veronica García began her first term as Superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools in 1999. (Eddie Moore / Albuquerque Journal)

At García’s last school board meeting on Thursday, the board surprised her with a resolution that declared her Superintendent Dr. Veronica C. García Day, expressing “her deep gratitude and gratitude for leading with the head. and the heart, for his immeasurable impact on the lives of students, families and educators in New Mexico, and for leaving an extraordinary legacy in Santa Fe and throughout New Mexico.

“Dr. García has always really pushed for excellence,” said Noble. “She has done an incredible job aligning and improving our curriculum and our teaching – which is at the heart of education. created a culture of excellence and collaboration and was open to new ideas.… She was an incredible combination of knowledge, experience, heart and creativity.

García cited culture change, fostering collaboration, opening up both vertical and horizontal lines of communication, and aligning curriculum and teaching as some of the things she is most proud of during her visit. second stint as superintendent.

Graduation rates fell from 71% in 2016 to 86.3% in 2020 during his tenure, the second-best graduation rate among all school districts in New Mexico.

García said she was also proud of the staff she brought together.

“We had a good balance of new and experienced people, a multigenerational firm. It was a great running and a solid foundation

Superintendent Veronica García kisses Fernando Bonilla, a student at Capshaw Middle School, as she visits staff at the Santa Fe District Office upon her return to Santa Fe as Acting Superintendent in 2016 (Eddie Moore / Albuquerque Journal)

n what to build on, ”she said.

García thanked frontline teachers for the school district’s success since García resumed her role as superintendent in 2016 – first hired as acting superintendent after Joel Boyd left, but relinquished the permanent position a few more weeks later. late.

García said she felt she had improved her relations with the union workforce.

“We don’t always agree on everything, but that’s okay. But I think we have always been able to come to agreements, ”she said.

Grace Mayer, chair of the NEA local charter, could not be reached for comment last week. She also did not attend Thursday’s school board meeting, but did send a message which was read by Noble. He said union members and the Santa Fe community were grateful to García (and retired Deputy Superintendent Linda Cink) for their “leadership, compassion and professionalism.” They will be missed, ”he said.

García began her career as a teacher in her hometown.

She came from humble beginnings, raised by her aunt in a house with tiles laid directly on a dirt floor, running water only in the kitchen and two outbuildings in the courtyard. Working odd jobs to help put food on the table, she learned the value of an education in public schools through experience.

“This is why I have always been so passionate about the fact that we have high expectations, but also support children,” García told the Journal upon his return to Santa Fe in July 2016. “We have to ourselves. hold accountable because we want to have access to quality education to break the cycle of poverty.

García’s doctoral thesis focused on the professional development of educational leaders, so it is not surprising that she has held leadership positions in education.

She was first hired as the superintendent of Santa Fe in 1999 and has remained Gov until then. Bill Richardson appointed her secretary of education in 2003. She remained in that position until the end of Richardson’s administration in 2010.

Santa Fe Public School Superintendent Veronica Garcia leads a bus of community leaders on a tour of the district’s past and future projects in 2017 (Eddie Moore / Albuquerque Journal)

During this time, she advocated for educational reform and helped put in place the state’s Pre-K Act, Hispanic Education Act and programs for at-risk students ” , according to the resolution of the school board honoring his work.

“She also advocated for a comprehensive approach to education reform by advocating for increased funding for programs such as school health clinics, school breakfast and elementary physical education,” indicates the resolution.

After leaving the state government, García spent several years as the executive director of the non-profit organization Voices for Children, which works to promote the well-being of children, until he returned to SFPS for a second time four years ago.

The Kite Tail Foundation is just one of the many projects she has planned for her “retirement”.

“After this job it’s so intense, if I had to stop completely I think it would be a shock to my system,” she said. “I’m not retiring, I’m slowing down and shifting gears.

She will do small-scale consulting work, she said, and also intends to write three books.

One of the books she has already started writing is a dissertation.

“I worked on it bit by bit,” she said.

Another book will focus on the components of ethical leadership.

“Ethical leadership is so necessary. It will be about the components and strategies of leadership, and the best way to pivot in education, ”she said.

García said she also plans to write a novel. It’s a detective story right now because she refused to say what it was about.

She also intends to spend more time with her grandchildren, who live out of state.

“It’s easier to travel now,” said García, who has a group of grandchildren in Arizona and one in Texas. “The pandemic has underscored how precious time is and how important it is to connect. “

And she will stay in touch with Santa Fe through the Kite Tail Foundation and its ongoing advocacy for the youth of New Mexico.

“Some people think it’s trite to say that children are our future and that we need to invest in them,” she said. “It has been my passion. I am motivated by the work I do. It is a vocation. It’s part of who I am.

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