The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


What is a charter school?

Charter schools are public schools. They do not charge tuition or have admission requirements. In New Mexico, local boards of education approve a charter, which then becomes the legally binding document under which a charter school operates. In return for a degree of flexibility and autonomy, charter schools agree to operate with less money.

The New Mexico Public Education Department says “a charter school is a public school developed by one or more parents, teachers or community members authorized by the local school board to provide an alternative educational setting to parents and students in the public school system. Charter schools provide an opportunity to create new, innovative and more flexible ways of educating children. A charter school can either be a start-up (new school) or a conversion school (from an existing public school).”

Charter schools have their own boards of directors (governing councils) and approve their own budgets. They hire their own teachers and principals. They expand and support the work accomplished by the state's other public schools by agreeing to a higher level of accountability. Charter schools are intended to provide parents and students with a choice in public education.

Charter schools in New Mexico have a limited life span because the charter or legal contract between the school and the district expires every five years. The school must then apply for a renewal of the contract. If charter schools fail to meet their financial and academic goals as outlined in their approved charter, they may be shut down, much like a business. In this way charter schools are highly accountable to parents and students for their academic and fiscal performance.

New Mexico has fifty-five approved charter schools in operation. Three more are approved and will open in fall 2006. Thirteen new charter applications are currently under review by local school boards.

Village Academy on track to open in 2006

The results of a survey to measure interest in a charter school have sparked renewed commitment to launch Village Academy Charter School this fall. In November and December, Village Academy’s governance council met with parents interested in a charter middle school, and they also authorized the appointment of new council members to further build capacity.

VACS council members approved a follow-up information training session, to be held on January 8, 1:00 to 4:30 p.m., at San Antonio Mission Church. The purpose of the meeting is to provide an overview for parents and other volunteers, as well as to generate work plans and committee assignments.

Public-governance council meetings are now held on the second Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. Alternate Wednesday work sessions are scheduled on an as-needed basis. Governance council members welcome input from parents and others who want to participate in any capacity, and are actively soliciting new members for committees and the 2006 governance council itself. Interested individuals are encouraged to attend the charter school’s public meetings to obtain information and offer suggestions.

To receive information about student participation, the academic program, and how VACS can address your child's needs, write to Village Academy Charter School, P. O. Box 1247, Placitas, NM 87043-1247, or e-mail

Students can “opt out” of military recruitment

The Project on Youth and Non-Military Opportunities provides a form letter to exercise your legal right under the opt-out provision of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 telling your school it may not release your personal information to military recruiters. The form is to be filled out by parents. Opting out is your legal right. There is no penalty and school officials must comply with your request. Many schools have their own forms, but if you don’t receive one, contact the school or use Project YANO’s form (available at

Personal information may also be released to military recruiters if you take the military’s Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test at school. If you take this test, your personal information will be provided to recruiters even if you opted out. This test is devised by the Department of Defense to measure skills for military jobs. The ASVAB is also being used by the Pentagon to create a national database of all teenagers. This test is not mandatory and there is no penalty for not taking it. Parents should tell the school if they do not want their children to take the test.

Project YANO also provides information on the Delayed Entry Program, whereby students sign up a year before they have to report for active duty. The military is obligated to release all DEP recruits who request a reparation. The project also has a flier titled Careers in Peacemaking and Social Change that encourages students to look for a job that “does not harm others and promotes cooperation and the building of a just society.”

For more information, contact Project YANO, at P. O. Box 230157, Encinitas, CA 92023, e-mail, or visit

Open your home to an AFS exchange student

Students from Germany, India, Finland, and Hong Kong are coming to Albuquerque and surrounding areas in August. Albuquerque-area volunteers invite local families to have the experience of a lifetime. New Mexico schools have hosted students from Indonesia, South Africa, Japan, Belgium, Ecuador, and other countries.

Host families open their homes and hearts to high school students from around the world. They provide their new "son” or “daughter" with a bed, meals, and guidance, and receive the support of AFS staff and volunteers. Families are diverse and on the go and include two-parent households with small children, teenagers, or no children at home; single parents; grandparents; and adults who do not have children.

AFS-USA is a nonprofit organization that works toward a more just and peaceful world by providing international and intercultural learning experiences to individuals, families, schools, and communities through a global volunteer partnership. AFS-USA hosts over twenty-seven hundred students from more than fifty countries every year. AFS students come to the United States for a school year or semester and study in high schools around the country.

For more information, please contact local-area volunteer Jan Randall at, (505) 856-7576; or staff member Brie Rehbein at, 1 (800) 876-2377, extension 1563.

NMSU scholarships revamped

New Mexico State University has revamped its scholarship structure to be more competitive with regional universities and give more students access to awards, said Tyler Pruett, director of financial aid and scholarship services.

The changes include implementing two new scholarships, the NMSU Leadership and Crimson Honors. The leadership scholarship, awarded to incoming freshmen, rewards outstanding academic achievement and leadership. The award covers tuition and fees plus $1,000 per semester. Leadership scholars participate in NMSU's Honors College, the state's only honors college, and conduct undergraduate research or undertake creative arts projects.

The Crimson Honors scholarship application serves as a single-form application for the scholarship, the Crimson Scholars Program, and admission to the Honors College. The scholarship covers tuition and fees plus $500 a semester. It is awarded on a competitive basis to incoming freshmen from New Mexico with outstanding academic and extracurricular records.

Other modifications include increasing the requirements to the President's Associates Honors scholarship to be more competitive with regional universities; broadening the criteria for the Regents scholarship to allow more students access to the award; and renaming the Regents Plus scholarship to Crimson Academic. Students awarded the Crimson Academic scholarship will be eligible to apply for the Crimson Honors. The Opportunity scholarship has not been changed. In addition, the deadline date to apply for the President's Associates Honors and the NMSU Leadership scholarships is January 16. The changes will affect incoming freshmen beginning their college careers in fall 2006.
For more information on scholarships and financial aid, contact the office, at (877) 278-8586, (505) 646-4105, or or go to



Front Page   Up Front  Animal News   Around Town   Classifieds   Calendar  Community Profile  Community Center  Crime Scene   Eco-Beat   Featured Artist  Fire and Rescue  The Gauntlet   Community Links  Night Skies   Movie Reviews  My Wife and Times  Sandoval Arts   Schoolbag   Time Off   Back Issues   Ad Rates   Contact Us