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Success Story: Taos Municipal Schools

Planting the seeds for excellence

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At Taos Municipal Schools (TMS), everyone is striving for excellence and they are achieving it. The faculty and staff are working on 18 different initiatives that bring direct services to children in the classroom.

“We are supporting each child to give them the opportunity to reach their hopes and dreams,” says TMS Superintendent Dr. Lillian Torrez, “We are working with our students not only on academics, but social and emotional needs as well.”

Working harder and seeing results

Due to budget cuts of over three million dollars in recent years, everyone is doing more with less – a testament to the passionate commitment of Dr. Torrez, the teachers, staff, board and the students themselves.  “We are trying to do it all, even offering all sports at both the middle and high school levels. Our goal is to sustain all direct services for kids, even athletics,” says Torrez. Volunteers in the classroom and support from the community help give strength to their efforts.

“Raising student proficiency in academics is our number one goal,” says Dr. Torrez. “We continue to provide the highest quality instruction with high expectations of staff and students.” Last year the number of sixth-graders who were proficient at math increased from 10 percent to 28 percent using the MW EA MAPS testing which is the short-cycle assessment administered three times a year.

Although academic achievement continues to be the top goal, TMS focuses on all aspects of our students’ well-being. “We don’t just see test scores, we see whole human beings who each have unique needs,” says Dr. Torrez.

TMS has written grants to support students and families in all aspects of life through the Direct Services (DSS) Grant, Striving Readers (SRCL) Grant, Attendance Success Initiative Grant and Community in Schools Grant to provide services such as dental and vision exams, clothing, a food pantry, therapy and a garden for fresh produce to take home – all help students get the help they need. “Several of these programs help build self-confidence of our students, so they can succeed. The seeds are being planted and programs implemented. We are on the right track,” Torrez notes. 

Personal motivation

This is Dr. Torrez’ fifth year at Taos Municipal Schools.  She’s led the new initiatives and outreach, touching every aspect as the district has moved these forward with excellence. “Growing up in poverty, myself, I am personally motivated to help each child succeed, no matter what their circumstances. Every student has gifts to offer the world and we just need to help them bring these out,” she says. 

Super-charging education 

At TMS, a strategic plan lays out goals to the year 2020 and beyond. Through programs like the Expanded Pre-K program, the district hopes to super-charge learning, so they can look back several years later when students are in higher grade levels and see results. By focusing on these initiatives and supporting opportunities for growth for all employees, the district is working toward the goal of being a premier school district in New Mexico and is expecting continued improvements for students.

On the big whiteboard in Dr. Torrez’s office, there are notes about the 18 initiatives in progress in the district. Among all the notes, one question stands out: Are the decisions we are making right here, right now, the best for our students …?

“Students are the focus that drives all of our decisions,” says Torrez. 

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