The Academy for Technology and the Classics (ATC) was founded in 2000 to provide a classical and technology-based approach to education in a public school setting. ATC was the third charter school established in Santa Fe, and the first in Santa Fe to open its doors to both middle and high school students. In keeping the student body small, the school's founding Board of Trustees sought to provide small classes and personalized instruction to students who thrived in such an environment.
ATC first opened its doors in January 2001. The school was located in a leased building on the campus of the New Mexico National Guard. In 2003 the school moved to a campus behind the Genoveva Chavez Community Center. Portable classrooms were provided by Santa Fe Public Schools and the other portable buildings (administration and restrooms) were leased by ATC. The land was made available by the City of Santa Fe.
In September 2007 the school moved to its permanent location located in Rancho Viejo, across from the Institute of American Indian Arts. The building was constructed on privately donated land.
ATC offers a traditional liberal arts/classical education while providing the technology tools to enhance critical thinking, problem solving, and analysis. ATC has 360 students 7th through 12th grade. This small school environment allows the faculty and staff to create meaningful relationships with students and their parents. We are small enough school to address the needs of the whole child. The size of the school allows the faculty and staff to have an impact on the lives of the students. This is not to be confused with class size. Our students are not anonymous. Every child has someone that cares very deeply for them.
ATC requires students engage in a rigorous curriculum. All students must take Advanced Placement courses and the middle school must take pre-AP courses. This “no easy way out” philosophy is invigorating to students who may have been bored in other schools. Some of our students come to us in 7th grade on a 3rd grade reading level and are English Language Learners. By the time they are in 10th grade they are mastering the curriculum in the Advanced Placement Classes and have exited ELL. 45% of our students are economically disadvantaged, however, ATC believes that having high expectations with support is a social justice issue. We don’t make exceptions. The professional team at ATC believes in our students before they begin to believe in themselves and students are not allowed to fall through the cracks. Our teachers are determined that students will succeed and have the tools to have access to higher education. Each year between 80 – 90 % go to a 4 year college and the other 10-20% go to a community college, trade school, or the military.
ATC has a very lean budget. Our per pupil allocation is approximately $7,000. We do not have a cafeteria, gym, or science labs. Budget decisions are guided by our mission.
ATC has very few instructional resources; however, we pay our teachers for an 8 hour day allowing for 2.5 hours of planning and parent conference time. This additional hour allows teachers to involve parents in their child’s education. All parent communication is logged in a school-wide share folder. Over 1600 phone calls have been made to parents this school year. Teachers meet with parents when students have 3, 5, and 7 absences. Our attendance rate is one of the highest in the state. Teachers also conference with parents on a regular basis about academics. We have an explicit plan for engaging parents in their child’s education.
ATC has two full time guidance counselors resulting in a 1 to 180 ratio. In 2016 our 40 graduating seniors received over $2M in financial aid and scholarships and 34% were first generation college attendees. While some schools invest in expensive curriculum programs, staff development, and remediation programs, ATC works to provide an environment that supports students on a personal level emotionally and academically.
The culture at ATC allows those students on the fringe to feel safe resulting in freedom to learn. Students feel free to be themselves without the threat of bullying. Every student and groups of students has a special relationship with one or more of the faculty. Students eat lunch in teachers’ classrooms and teachers encourage this so that they can provide tutoring during lunch. Within this structured environment student are trusted, have freedom, and are treated like respected adults. Teachers model acceptance and civility. ATC hires people with diverse backgrounds and model diversity and acceptance. Staff is attend staff development that supports this type of environment.
ATC environment is bully free.
Systems are in place for decision making that involves teachers and students
ATC’s practice is to identify goals for continuous improvement, identify strengths, and what needs to take place to reach goals. Teachers create a team to study issues looking inside and outside the school for solutions. Teachers create a plan to address goals and bring the work to the school-as-a-whole for input and final decision making. Ground up decision making allows teachers to be empowered to innovate. This nurtures teachers and incentivizes them to go beyond expectations. Top down decision making creates teachers who are resentful and discouraged. If you let teachers have freedom they will go to extraordinary efforts to meet the needs of students.
The ATC organization has developed systems to improve student attendance through parental involvement. Each year students take a course entitled College Crew. This was developed by teachers and provides a different focus each year such as school orientation, leadership, freshman seminar, college success, test prep, and senior seminar.
ATC is at point where the administration provides books and educational articles, and then individual teachers determine their own development as a professional. This has also created a collaborative environment when teachers are initiating interdisciplinary units. In 2016 a school wide forensic project was completed which was teacher initiated and involved all teachers and disciplines.
ATC is highly selective in recruiting and hiring teachers. Teachers must demonstrate a passion for teaching and relate to students. Interviewees go through extensive hiring process. Teachers must be a perfect fit for our unique environment. Our teachers not only have a tremendous impact on their students, they will also have a powerful impact on our school-as-a-whole. They must be being willing to go to extraordinary efforts to help students achieve success.
Students are highly involved in the decision making process. The student council initiates and implements all activities at the school. They meet every Monday and take notes on Google classroom and then distribute the notes to teachers, students, and the parent organization. They attend Board meetings and provide the principal with valuable input.
ATC cultivates fearless teachers and students.