New Mexico Public Education Department Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski on Friday visited Las Cruces to recognize five schools in the district that earned “A” grades from the Public Education Department. During a Friday morning assembly at Monte Vista Elementary, Ruszkowski presented banners to representatives from Arrowhead Park Early College High School, César E. Chávez Elementary, Desert Hills Elementary, Monte Vista Elementary and White Sands School.

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“We are pleased that the Education Secretary was able to visit with our students and teachers, and to recognize them for their academic accomplishments,” said Las Cruces Public Schools Deputy Superintendent of Instruction and Student Information Systems Steven Sanchez.

After brief remarks from the secretary, students and principals from the high-performing schools addressed the audience and shared reasons they believe their schools are “A” schools. Many of the students acknowledged the hard work and dedication of their teachers.

LCPS Board of Education members Maria Flores and Ray Jaramillo also congratulated the schools for their achievements, and welcomed Ruszkowski to the district.

After the assembly, Ruszkowski visited the classroom of Monte Vista Elementary fifth-grade teacher Robbi Berry and presented her with an Excellence in Teaching Award and a $5,000 check. Berry, who is now in her sixth year with LCPS, received the award for improving the achievement of her students by two years during the past school year, Ruszkowski said. $5 million was allocated for the Excellence in Teaching Awards in the state budget Gov. Susana Martinez signed in March.

— Damien Willis, LCPS Director of Communications, 575-527-5811,