Staying connected in Cuba, New Mexico

(Superintendent of Cuba Schools talks about programs that benefit students)

By Stephen Montoya

The sound of construction permeates the air on 50 County Road 13 across the street from the current Cuba Independent Schools Administration Building. Crews of landscapers are busy putting the finishing touches on a $1.2 million 5,000 square foot much needed hub for the school administrative staff.

Currently, the many departments that help run the day-to-day operations in Cuba are scattered throughout the educational grid that consists of the Cuba High School and Middle School.

Across the street from the hustle of work being finished are Sandoval County Commissioner Kenneth Eichwald and Superintendent of Cuba Independent Schools, Dr. Karen Sanchez-Griego. Their combined experience and knowledge of the area can be felt as they prepare to put into a nut shell their passion for the students in Cuba.

Sanchez-Griego said she grew up in Albuquerque, but felt like something was lacking in her profession when she began working in Arlington Virginia for a few years as a Superintendent.

“Then three years ago I thought, what am I doing in Arlington Virginia when I should be back at home in New Mexico,” she said? “So I came back home…and that’s when my colleague from Cuba told be about a principal position that was available here.”

Sanchez-Griego said after she was offered the position, she did her best to gain the trust of the community and the students by watching and observing what strengths the area had.

From the left is Sandoval County Commissioner F. Kenneth Eichwald and Superintendent of Cuba Schools Dr. Karen Sanchez Griego.

Now, she said she is committed to stay and help the Village of Cuba bring equity to its educational system.

Part of this goal, Sanchez-Griego said, was being able to give the Cuba libraries more reflective material for the young students in the area to read and have access to.

“What we had for the longest time were a lot of Puritan books, books about the military and nothing about Native Americans and Hispanics,” she said.

Literacy is very important, Sanchez-Griego said, and having material that reflects the people and the culture a student comes from has a lasting effect on how they perceive themselves and education in general.

Another goal she pointed out was the need for computers in the rural areas near Cuba that have no bus access.

“Our students were able to continue their education as of 2020 even if they couldn’t make it to school due to bad weather,” she said.

This was all done before the pandemic in March, she said, after the school applied for and received a $350,000 federal grant that would be used to place computers in many student’s homes.

“From kindergarten all the way down to preschool… we wanted to help our kids get into the 21st Century; even if they didn’t have access to the internet,” Sanchez-Griego said.

After getting the grant, each teacher would upload a lesson for the week beginning on Monday morning in case there was a snowstorm or anything that would cause an interruption in a student’s learning, she said.

“We bought them bags, we bought them headsets, and one thing Commissioner Eichwald was instrumental in, was helping the kids that graduated from high school, walk away with that very lap top,” she said.

For this to happen, she said, the Sandoval County Commission had to look for funding up to $36,000 so these kids graduating could have the computer they were working on so they could move on to a secondary education.

“We wanted the kids to see this equipment as theirs upon graduation but the State Department said we weren’t allowed to give these kids the computers when they were no longer in school,” she said.

With the Commission’s help, Sanchez-Griego said, Cuba Schools were able to write the computers off and purchase them for each student and let them have it so they could continue their educational journey.

“This is something I think needs to continue,” Sanchez-Griego said.

Commissioner, Kenneth Eichwald, said Cuba Schools has done a tremendous job dealing with the pandemic and much more.

“I can see how Cuba Schools has really affected this whole northern corridor of Sandoval County in a positive way,” he said. “I see what they are doing with the computers and the on-line learning and everything else because my wife is a teacher and a librarian here.”

Eichwald said, one of the things he is pushing for to be done in the District 5 schools is to create a dual credit program that allows students to enter a college or university with the opportunity to get an Associate’s Degree online.

“While these students are getting their high school diploma, they are already ahead of where they should be before entering college or the job force,” he said. “This isn’t just for a student to be a doctor or a lawyer but also be prepared for trade school.”

Eichwald said if this process moves forward, there is no reason why the students in Cuba Schools couldn’t have the edge they deserve to get a good job or move forward in their education.

Side Bar

A quick rundown of Cuba NM

The Village of Cuba New Mexico is known for its long history of ranching and farming. In today’s modern age, one of the main things that makes Cuba unique is that it still looks like a snapshot from a bygone era. Whether visitors come into town for their first time or come to visit family, it’s evident that Cuba’s legacy still thrives. It thrives at the Sandoval County Fair, where proud livestock owners hand down generations of knowledge to their children. It thrives at places like the San Gregorio Lake Trail, just a few miles northeast from Cuba’s center. Some of the local cuisine is also a must, from the steak and eggs at the Cuban Café to the stuffed sopaipilla at El Bruno’s, each bite is authentic. Another asset that Cuba has is its location, which is conveniently 1 hour and 21 minutes from Albuquerque. So next time you are planning to go out and want to try something new,  give this beautiful section of Sandoval County a try.

Click here Scenic Drives – Highway 126    

Click here Nature Wildlife Areas – Mesa de Cuba Badlands

Click here San Pedro Parks Wilderness

Click here Restaurants in Cuba