Taos International School loses charter

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Pending a possible appeal, the Taos International School’s charter will not be renewed by the New Mexico Public Education Commission for the next school year, and the school may be looking at closing after its short 4-year run.

During a recent commission meeting, which was extended to two sessions, the commission voted 7 - 3 not to renew the school’s charter due to the school’s lack of academic progress in the past four years as well as several other factors influencing the decision.

“We take a look at the four-year progress of the school,” said PEC Chair Patricia Gipson. “There was not substantial progress being made. There are a lot of factors that go into what is reviewed.”

Taos International School Director Nadine Vigil declined to comment on the situation and was unable to comment on whether the school would appeal the commission’s decision.

Gipson cited a “lack of general progress” as a reason for the denial of a renewed charter. She said that, pending an appeal, should the school choose to file one, the school’s charter would not be renewed, meaning the school would have to close at the end of the 2017/18 school year. Students would be placed in other Taos area schools.

Taos Municipal Schools Superintendent Lillian Torrez said the district is ready to take on students to help. “If it does close, we can accommodate those students and parents,” said Torrez.

Torrez said the district has more than 100 slots open for elementary students alone.

Taos International School first applied for a charter in 2012 but was denied by the New Mexico Public Education Commission in September of that year. The decision was reversed by former Education Secretary Hannah Skandara, and the school was allowed to operate. The school was touted as a dual language and international baccalaureate school when it opened in 2013. International Baccalaureate is a nationally recognized non-profit educational foundation, and schools must have authorization from the company to offer the curriculum. International Baccalaureate officials said on Tuesday (Dec. 19) that the school was “not an authorized IB World School.”

Taos International School could still turn things around.

“If there is clear evidence of adequate or better performance, the charter is renewed,” said PEC District 10 Member Tim Crone in an email. “If the evidence indicates that students are being educated inadequately, an education that will limit some of the students’ future educational opportunities, we are legally and morally obligated to not renew the charter. I believe the board and the administration of the school have options and encourage them to explore their options.”

Since 2015, the school’s PED grades have not risen above a D grade and, in 2017, the school received an F grade from the department. The K-8th grade school has 205 students.

“They (the state) base a lot of their decisions on how the schools do on standardized testing,” said Johanna Lee, whose daughter is attending kindergarten at the school. “I think it’s a really good school and my daughter is learning a lot. She loves going to school, and they must be doing something right if my daughter enjoys going to school.”

Lee said she was drawn to the school because of their dual language programs, which her daughter is involved in. Lee also said the school gave parents letters, notifying them of the PEC hearing as well as after the school was denied a charter renewal. Lee said the second letter to parents indicated the school was planning on filing an appeal.

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