LCPS Equity Council

As a result of the recent school funding lawsuits, Martinez v. State of New Mexico and Yazzie v. State of New Mexico, Las Cruces Public Schools (LCPS) has agreed to concentrate on a set of actions that address the deficiencies detailed in the court ruling. The New Mexico Constitution instructs the State to develop a uniform system of public schools sufficient for the education of New Mexico students. The Court’s decision and order in the Martinez and Yazzie consolidated lawsuit held that New Mexico has not met its duty to provide an education to the state’s “at-risk” students, including those who are economically disadvantaged, Native American, English learners, or students with disabilities. The Court further found the Indian Education Act (IEA), the Hispanic Education Act (HEA), and the Bilingual Multicultural Education Act (BMEA), which were enacted to help many of these students succeed, were not being fully implemented.

In an effort to promote transparency and engage the Equity Council in critical conversations, LCPS will be working with an outside facilitator, Sarah Silva, who has extensive experience in organizing groups to elicit meaningful feedback. The scope of her work will be to address the gaps and deficiencies that exist for students and families that are economically disadvantaged, Native American, African American, English learners and students with disabilities, to create a more equitable learning environment that allows more students to learn and grow in ways that honor their needs and leverage their talents. Silva’s work will assist LCPS in moving forward our efforts to address the needs of the four student population groups outlined in the Yazzie/Martinez case and also include African-American students and families. We are awaiting the PED’s release of the readiness assessment, which will further these efforts. 

The Equity Council will be working with an outside facilitator who has extensive experience in organizing groups to illicit meaningful feedback that will assist in moving forward our efforts to address the needs of the four student population groups outlined in the Yazzi/Martinez case.

The ultimate goal of the council is to make recommendations to the school administration and school board on how we can best move forward with enhancing the education of the students outlined in the Yazzie case. We will be creating a page on the LCPS website completely dedicated to informing the community of the progress/actions/recommendations made by the council.

Equity Council Members and Stakeholder Group they Represent

  1. Martina, Miranda Lugo: Las Cruces H.S. Educational Assistant
  2. Angelica, Salcido-Lempke: Centennial H.S. teacher
  3. Colette Martinez: César Chavez Elementary Assistant Principal
  4. Jennifer Reyes Islava: Desert Hills Elementary bilingual teacher
  5. Kimberly: Arrowhead Early College H.S. Student
  6. Andrea: Centennial H.S. Student
  7. Vanessa Baeza: Parent
  8. Carissa Brealey Bonacci: Parent
  9. Tanya Camargo: Parent
  10. Claudia Ocon: Parent
  11. Crissi Rivera: Community Member
  12. Patricia Chispan: Community Member
  13. Sra. Maria Flores: LCPS Vice President LCPS Board of Education
  14. Michael Ray: NMSU-American Indian Program
  15. TBD-Member pending acceptance: (community member/parent)
  16. Dr. Karen Trujillo (Superintendent)
  17. Dr. Roberto Lozano (Associate Superintendent) will be representing the district level leadership team.

Meet Sarah Silva

Sarah Silva is a 16-year community organizer, trainer, facilitator and coach. A native of New Mexico, Sarah learned how to organize while attending the University of San Francisco and while living in El Salvador. Over the past 8 years, Sarah has become a skilled trainer and certified transformational coach that specifically looks at how peers in social justice and advocacy organizations can improve and become more self-aware about how they talk to one another and to their constituencies. This includes learning language and interpersonal tools that are more inclusive of many people’s experiences when it comes to oppression of all systemic types, racism, colonization, etc. Sarah has over 300 certified coaching hours in the past year and approximately 2,100 hours of training on race, community organizing and organizational development over the last 8 years.

In addition to faith-based and community groups, Sarah has trained city employees in the public sector on race and bias, university faculty and students at 3 different public universities and trained grantees of the WK Kellogg Foundation, New Mexico Community Foundation and NewMexicoWomen.org. Sarah also coaches a wide variety of clients who include university professors, candidates for congress, community organizers, executive directors and startup innovators. Sarah focuses on coaching predominantly, but not exclusively, women and women of color.

Sarah’s orientation to facilitation and project management centers on relationship before tasks. She has learned that focusing on critical connections over critical mass is what builds the tenacity and resiliency of a group. As you can see from the budget, Sarah makes one-on-one meetings a priority to ensure people are being heard, are working and being held accountable to the goals and to the Equity Council members and their responsibilities. Sarah also centers group learning, shared protocols and values and makes expectations as clear and explicit as possible. She will be aware of when the group may need to be flexible and adaptive to move the process forward.

The facilitator will be responsible for the management, facilitation, progress and outcomes of the LCPS Equity Council as detailed by the recommendations and components set forth by the State of New Mexico Public Education Department (NM PED). These components include:

  • Creation and completion of a readiness assessment for LCPS.
  • Formulation of Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Framework (CLR).
  • Development of 90-day plans & assessing implementation.

In addition to addressing the needs of targeted populations as detailed by ​Martinez ​ and ​Yazzie consolidated lawsuit, LCPS Superintendent Dr. Karen Trujillo has also expressed a desire to include African-American students and families in all assessments and planning.

There will be regular one-on-one meetings with equity council members, check-ins with LCPS staff including Superintendent Dr. Karen Trujillo, delegation of work to equity council members, trainings & facilitation of equity council meetings, meetings with other stakeholders, elected leaders, LCPS staff and/or faculty as needed. There will also be quarterly progress reports (both written and verbal). Organizing broader community events and activities, identifying other solutions at the city & county level to support these goals, press events and interviews as needed and approved by LCPS. The progress of the Equity Council will be measured through the following metrics:

  • Equity Council follows and accomplishes the metrics set out by NM PED in a timely manner.
  • Equity Council builds community support and engagement that represents students and families from a multitude of backgrounds and experiences and that reflects the district population.
  • Students that fall in the categories named in ​Martinez ​ and ​Yazzie ​ cases and African-American students will have additional tools, policies and other resources that will be more responsive to their needs, equitable and allows for more students to thrive and grow.

With 16 years’ experience in community organizing with Faith In Action (formerly PICO National Network), Sarah Silva brings experience in civic engagement and work promoting alliances across race, class and backgrounds to her home state of New Mexico.

Notable is her involvement as Founder and Director for NM Communities in Action and Faith (NM CAFé) and as a Facilitator and Trainer for anti-racism and equity. In 2014 NM CAFé raised the minimum wage in Las Cruces, making it the poorest city in the nation to do so. Sarah values the development of local people to influence equity and justice for themselves and their community.

Over the past 16 years, Sarah has organized and worked with communities in San Francisco, CA, and where she was born and raised in Southern New Mexico on issues ranging from affordable housing, immigration reform and economic dignity. Most recently, Sarah became a certified professional coach and facilitates institutions like the ACLU, public universities, foundations and community organizing movements. She holds degrees in Theology and Latin American History from the Jesuit University of San Francisco and currently lives in Las Cruces, NM with her partner and two children. For more information, visit her website at ​www.SarahASilva.com.

— Samantha Lewis, LCPS Public Relations Coordinator, 575-527-5946, slewis@lcps.net