New Mexico Chartering: From Flamenco to Governance

I was mesmerized by the skill of the flamenco dancers from Tierra Adentro of New Mexico Charter School. As I watched, Sandy Martinez approached me and pointed out her 8th grade daughter, Jillian (right). As a dancer myself, I marveled at Jillian’s confidence, poise, and technique at such a young age. Then her mother shared with me that Jillian is actually a very shy young woman. With great emotion, Sandy told me how much this Albuquerque charter school, and this dance program, meant to her daughter. The school changed her life. I admit, my eyes teared up as I watched this young woman so confidently share the exquisite joy of dance.

There were other talented students who performed at the New Mexico Charter Schools Conference October 25-26 in Albuquerque. During the breakfast hour, Mr. Torrez directed the orchestra of the Public Academy for Performing Arts (PAPA), a charter school in Albuquerque.  This cello player showed great focus for 7:30 a.m.! Below are a few other pictures of students who performed throughout the conference.  I especially appreciated seeing young men taking to the arts.

I was pleased to be invited by Executive Director Dr. Bruce Hegwer of the New Mexico Coalition for Charter Schools to keynote their state conference. I was grateful to the Coalition for providing Zero Chance of Passage: The Pioneering Charter School Story to all conference attendees, so they could take home the story of the origins to support their present day work in charter school advocacy, messaging, media, and recruiting of parents and families.

This conference, with over 400 participants, was distinctive in its focus on governance. Over 80% of the attendees were members of charter school governing councils (boards of directors). New Mexico requires annual training for board members. That makes sense to me—governance is one of the most important components of successful charter schools. After my keynote, and as a corporate counsel with expertise in governance, I presented to the general session the Seven Standards for Highly Effective Charter School Governance. Let the note-taking begin! I heard these standards presented at the National Charter Schools Conference by Charter Board Partners of Washington D. C., and with their permission I built upon them for New Mexico leaders. To find out more, check out


7 Standards for Highly Effective Charter School Governance

Believe in and Commit to the Mission of the School!

Focus Relentlessly on School Achievement

Recruit and Retain an Exceptional Leader

Invest in Exemplary Governance

Act Strategically and Hold the Board Accountable

Raise and Use Resources Wisely

Commit Steadfastly to Legal and Regulatory Compliance


One last issue that received a lot of attention in New Mexico was the need for financing assistance for charter school facilities. Some Albuquerque charter schools are in portable facilities. As board vice chair of Charter Schools Development Corporation (CSDC), a national nonprofit organization that provides financing and development for charter school facilities, I had opportunity to inform governing board leaders that possibilities for financing do exist for them, even in start-up phases. To find out more, check out or email