Editor's note: Marita Noon's column on energy issues will run in this space on Thursday.

Dear Community Leader:

I am writing to you concerning the education of our students and how we can better encourage and assist parents in participating in their children's success in school.

Studies have shown that if a parent is engaged in their child's education, that child has a much greater chance of earning higher grades, taking more advanced courses, and improving their overall performance in the classroom.

There are many ways, of course, that a parent can become involved – from taking part in our evening workshops throughout the state about how literacy can be taught at home, to encouraging students to participate in our summer reading challenge so that they do not lose reading proficiency over the summer. But, one of the most effective ways for parents to engage in a partnership with their child's teacher is to regularly attend parent-teacher conferences.

In New Mexico, I believe we can all play a role in improving the participation rate of parents in these one-on-one meetings with teachers. I have heard from teachers about how valuable it is to have parents who actively engage in parent-teacher conferences. However, I have also heard from parents who express concerns that their work schedules can, at times, be a significant impediment to allowing them to participate as much as they would like.

To help partially address this issue, I have signed Executive Order 2014-007. Under this Executive Order, beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, all state employees with school aged children in agencies under my direction will be given up to eight hours of administrative leave per year (depending upon the number of children they have) for the purpose of attending parent-teacher conferences. By signing this Executive Order, we are giving parents some needed flexibility to strengthen their partnership with our schools, so they can ultimately help their students succeed.

However, my Executive Order applies only to certain state employees. I am writing today to encourage you to join me in offering this same accommodation to employees within your jurisdiction. At the state level, the State Personnel Office will be drafting formal guidelines for how this administrative leave is to be used and monitored; if you are thinking about adopting parent-teacher conference leave in your city or county and would like access to these guidelines, we would be happy to provide them to you.

In New Mexico, there are over 213,000 families with at least one school aged child. If state government, local governments, universities, other public bodies, and the private sector all work together to encourage parents to engage in regular discussions with their children's teachers, we can likely improve educational outcomes for our kids – giving them a brighter future and New Mexico a stronger workforce.

If you would like additional information about this effort, or would simply like to tell us that you plan to offer parent-teacher conference leave to your employees, please contact my office. You can speak with Brad Galbraith, who is best reached at brad.galbraith@state.nm.us or (505) 476-2272.

Thank you for your time.


Susana Martinez