LOS LUNAS — “It’s great feedback and we have work to do,” said Deborah Elder, Ed.D., interim superintendent and chief academic officer of instruction of Los Lunas Schools about the most recent community survey.

A total of 756 parents, 370 employees and 223 employees who are also parents of LLS students, completed the emailed survey for a total of 1,349 respondents, according to the district’s website. This was the first formal community survey since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I do very much appreciate the time the community took to take the survey,” Elder said. “It was long; we asked a lot, but we need to know a lot because we need to rebuild post-Covid stronger.”

Elder said the district regularly conducts these types of community surveys as part of the board policies to get community input and move toward solidifying long-term plans based on feedback.

“We’ve done a good deal of analysis of the survey results and where we’ll go next. It’s helped us to identify priorities, kind of broad-stroke, but we still need more information,” Elder said. “From here, we’ll do some community forums to ask more about this.”

When it comes to the overall quality of teaching in the past five years, 14 percent of parents surveyed said it improved, while 44 percent said it stayed the same and 29 percent said it declined. Notably, parents with a child in high school were more likely to say it declined with 42 percent reporting so.

Of the employee respondents, 34 percent say the overall quality of teaching has improved, 44 percent say it stayed the same, 12 percent said it declined and 22 percent did not offer an opinion.

Elder said coming out of the pandemic has been a challenge and the district is working hard to improve the quality of teaching.

“We have excellent teachers in our district,” Elder said. “I think we all hoped during Covid that when we could go back to school in-person we would just flip the switch and go straight back to normal, but it didn’t happen that way at all.

“Teachers have had a lot of adjustment to do because kids missed, in the best case scenario, 67 days of teaching the year we were closed from Covid,” the interim superintendent said. “You’re not going to overcome that overnight, so I certainly would never blame the teachers for this response in any way. But what it is, is a call to support and make sure we’re giving teachers everything they need to continuously increase the quality of instruction so that we have better outcomes for our kids.”

The majority of all groups surveyed feel students fell behind academically during the pandemic. With 63 percent of parents, 56 percent of employees and 58 percent and those who are employees and have a child attending LLS agreeing with the statement.

Elder said to address this the district has been working on getting students caught back up for the past year and a half.

“Last year, we really intensified our credit recovery options for high-schoolers. We had many students who came out of Covid behind in their credits and so we expanded the opportunities for them to acquire more credits,” she said. “We’re not going to punish them by not letting them graduate for something that was out of their control …”

In elementary schools, Elder said the district is  particularly focusing on reading to get students caught up.

“A big push from our PED has been to train teachers in LETRS, the science of reading. So we have some literacy coaches working with our elementary teachers on implementing the science of reading using new materials, so it falls right in line with what the state is doing to get those accelerated learner outcomes,” Elder said.

In terms of communication with the public, 33 percent of parents agree the district does a good job communicating the district’s goals, plans, and progress to the public. 28 percent have mixed feelings and 35 percent disagree.

In response to the question, ‘Is LLS open and honest with its communication to the public?’ 34 percent of parents surveyed agreed, 25 percent have mixed feelings and 35 percent disagree.

The vast majority of parents surveyed have mixed feelings (28 percent) or disagree (41 percent) with the statement ‘LLS does a good job of seeking public input to help improve the education and services it provides,’ while 29 percent agree.

“How to interpret this, I’m not 100 percent sure,” Elder said. “But we will have those opportunities to talk to people and find out what they’re thinking to help guide that. I’m working with the board on my leadership-transition plan and community involvement and communication are key pieces to that plan. Eventually, that plan will be public, but a lot of it is coming from this feedback.”

The survey also asked parents and employees for their input on what should be the most high priority items for LLS. Of those, 77 percent of parents and 71 percent of employees rated improving the safety and security of the schools as the highest priority.

All Los Lunas Schools currently have a school resources officer on campus, and Elder said they have made great efforts in creating the vestibules — one way in and one way out of campuses — so people entering the campus can’t walk in from anywhere.

“(Visitors) have to be buzzed into the office and have to show ID. We have really tight procedures so strangers don’t get on campus and we have the facilities to support that now,” she said. “I think almost all our schools have them now. Plus, we have campus service aides on secondary and high school campuses.

“Safety is the first and most important thing. People trust us with their children, and there’s no one more precious to people than their children,” Elder continued. “We have wonderful law enforcement and first responder partners.”

Another high priority item, as ranked by the parents and staff surveyed, include developing more career and technical education programs and establishing a tutoring program.

Elder said the district has started on the career and technical pathways and the certification programs, and have a close relationship with UNM-Valencia campus to help students with dual credit and with trades.

With regard to tutoring, Elder said the district currently has a tutoring program for algebra 1.

“Algebra 1 is kind of a gate-kepeer course for ninth grade, so the state wanted to make sure we’re supporting students in algebra across the board,” the interim superintendent said.

Elder believes they will need additional tutoring programs for math and writing.

Another one of the highest priority items, according to the parents surveyed in which 64 percent agreed, is more instructional time for science and math.

“I think they are absolutely right,” Elder said in response to the data. “We live in a state that has a very STEM-driven economy. We have (military) bases, two major national labs and right here we have Meta, so STEM is a huge driver of our economy, so we have to increase the emphasis on science.

“We started that this year in the elementary schools. Of course, kids get science in their regular schedule in middle and high school, but our approach in elementary needed some beefing up. So this year we’ve provided teachers with resources, programming and time in their master schedule for elementary students to have science three times a week.”

To see the full community survey report, visit Los Lunas School’s website at llschools.net. Elder said the district plans on having two live parent forums, one on Zoom for feedback before the end of the school year. The dates and times are to be determined.

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Felina Martinez was born and raised in Valencia County. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2021. During her time at UNM, she studied interdisciplinary film, digital media and journalism. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, the School of Dreams Academy and the town of Peralta.