Academy for Technology and the Classics named best charter school in New Mexico

October 28, 2016 GMT

The Academy for Technology and the Classics, already a recipient of a number of national and state awards, received another accolade Thursday as New Mexico’s Best Charter School of the Year.

Biology teacher Jennifer Ferguson said it was like “winning an Oscar or an Emmy.”

In this case, it was a honor for an entire cast. Principal Susan Lumley, flanked by students, teachers and members of her administrative staff, accepted the award from the New Mexico Coalition of Charter Schools at a luncheon in Albuquerque.

“I think we were recognized not only for our success with test scores but for offering a well-rounded education,” Lumley said. “We create an environment of acceptance for all students so they feel they are in a place where they can learn. … We have set a structure in place that allows teachers to create and make magic in the classroom.”

Senior Grace Graham said the faculty lighting a fire to achieve sets the school apart.

“The teachers never give up on anyone. They always make sure you are doing your best,” Graham said.

New Mexico’s Public Education Department has awarded The Academy for Technology and Classics an A for four years in succession. In addition, the 16-year-old school frequently has ranked near the top in ratings of high schools in the state, and it regularly is one of the top 100 charter schools in the country in the U.S. News & World Report annual rankings. This year, it was 91st.

The school’s graduation rate last year was 84 percent. Lumley said 98 percent of its graduates go on to college.

It has about 380 students in grades 7-12. Lumley often has said that the school receives less money per pupil from the state than Santa Fe Public Schools — an average of $7,010, compared to $7,447 for the district. The school’s annual budget is $2.6 million.

All students at the academy take Advanced Placement classes to prepare them for college and, in some instances, give them a head start on college credits.

Attendance standards also are rigorous. Three absences by a student mean the parent gets a phone call. Five absences leads to a meeting with parents, the student and an administrator. If there’s a seventh absence, there’s another meeting, this time with all that student’s teachers.

“You can’t teach students if they are not there,” Lumley said.

The school, on Avan Nu Po Road opposite the Institute of American Indian Arts, is known for its emphasis on computer science and teaching classic works of literature and art. School insiders have often joked that they do this despite the fact that the school does not have a library, science labs or a gym. The school has long struggled with raising money to expand and improve its campus.

Unlike the other charter schools in Santa Fe, The Academy for Technology and the Classics is chartered under the school district’s authority rather than the state of New Mexico.

“We are pleased to have the New Mexico Charter School of the Year in our school community,” Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica García said in a statement Thursday. “We enjoy a positive working relationship with ATC. Santa Fe Public Schools looks forward to continuing our partnership with them and we offer ATC our heartfelt congratulations.”

Contact Robert Nott at 505-986-3021 or rnott@sfnewmexican.com.