Celebrating the Past & Improving the Future. Throughout the last 100 years, New Mexico has earned a reputation for being a state that fosters research, technology, and education. So, it’s fitting that as part of the state’s centennial celebration, Las Cruces opened the doors on a brand new, state-of-the-art high school.
The expansive new Centennial High School could easily be mistaken for a small university or community college. Located at the foot of “A” Mountain on the East Mesa of Las Cruces, the Centennial campus includes more than 360,000 square feet. Although the facilities are impressive, it’s what’s happening inside that’s going to change the way Las Cruces young people are educated, says Centennial High School principal Michael Montoya.
Here are five ways the opening of Centennial High School is making history and improving education in Las Cruces.
Centennial High School’s name pays homage to the 2012 celebration of New Mexico’s 100th anniversary of statehood.
“The centennial came from the fact that this will be the only high school that will open in the state of New Mexico this year during New Mexico’s centennial celebration,” notes Michael.
In honor of the educational tradition that paved the way for Centennial, an etched glass mural hangs in the hallway of the main administration building. The work chronicles the history of education in Las Cruces and pays tribute to many educational milestones in the area. Even the school colors refer back to New Mexico statehood.
“People believe that we took a color from each of the existing Las Cruces high schools for our school colors,” explains Michael, “but that’s not how we got our colors. The red and yellow are from the New Mexico state flag.”
The school also plans to celebrate New Mexico’s Centennial by burying a time capsule on September 22, 2012. The capsule, which is being designed in honor of the centennial, will feature a quote from New Mexico’s first governor and will include items relevant to life and education in 2012. The capsule won’t be opened again for 25 years.
2.) A COMMITTED FACULTY
Another thing that makes Centennial unique is the opportunity to start from scratch.
“When you start fresh, you can set high expectations,” says Michael. “Our staff really wants to be here. They’re ready to try something different, and they’re excited about our vision for what we want to do for our kids.”
Michael says that he and his staff are committed to making education at Centennial rigorous, relevant, and fun.
“I expect my teachers to engage kids,” he explains. “You’ve got to think outside the box.”
With more than 25 years of experience in education, Michael says he’s ready to lead his staff by treating them well and giving them the resources they need.
“Every staff member here is up for the challenge. It will be a good thing for our kids, and it will be a good thing for Las Cruces.”
3.) A NEW EDUCATIONAL STRATEGY
The classes, electives, sports, and activities offered at Centennial High School will be the same as those at the existing high schools. However, with Michael at the helm, Centennial is taking a decidedly new approach toward preparing students for college and a career.
Through the career pathways program, Centennial has created “career academies” for a variety of different career options. Once they begin the 10th grade, every student will select a career academy that’s fully integrated into the educational curriculum.
For example, all the high schools currently offer engineering classes. At Centennial a small section of the school, known as a pod, will be dedicated to kids who are interested in engineering. The English, Math, Social Studies, Science, and elective teachers will all be coordinating their curriculum to focus on specific areas of engineering at the same time.
“Our goal is not only to prepare our kids for college when they leave Centennial, but also to prepare them for a career.”
To help prepare students for a future career, each ninth grade student at Centennial takes a career explorations class.
“They will explore the different career academies that we will offer here at Centennial,” explains Michael. “That way they can make a better decision about which academy they want to get into when they get out of the ninth grade.”
4.) STATE-OF-THE-ART TECHNOLOGY & FACILITIES
To go with a committed staff and an exciting new educational strategy, Centennial features state-of-the-art technology in each classroom and facilities to rival almost any high school in the country.
Each classroom at Centennial has been fitted with a Promethean™ interactive white board that can be integrated into teaching strategies to allow students and teachers to interact. Rather than focusing resources on one or two computer labs, Michael has equipped each floor of the school with what he calls COWs (computers on wheels). Along with the COWs, each classroom will have access to iPads and laptops. The Centennial library includes a collection of over 600 ebooks that students can access from home, as well as from e-readers that can be checked out from the school library.
To keep students safe as they learn, advanced technology has been integrated into the school’s security system. There are 156 cameras around campus that can be accessed from the principal’s office and also remotely.
The Centennial culinary arts kitchen, theatre, and athletic facilities also integrate the latest in technology, concepts, and designs.
“Our athletic facilities are fabulous.The gym seats 3,000 people and has a full three-lane, quarter-mile running track.”
5.) REDUCED CLASS SIZES
It isn’t just Centennial’s students who will benefit from the opening of the new school. Students in Las Cruces’s three existing high schools will benefit in many ways but especially through smaller class sizes.
“Some years ago the Las Cruces school board decided we needed to do something because our schools were over capacity. Oñate, being the smallest of the high schools, was at almost 2,200 students, and Las Cruces and Mayfield were over 2,400 each. The hope is that by opening Centennial, each of our high schools will eventually be at 1,900 students.”
Not only does this mean smaller class sizes for all Las Cruces high school students, it also means fewer students in portable buildings at the three existing schools.
Centennial is poised to be a great addition to New Mexico’s rich history in education. “We want to be part of what this community is all about.”
additional photos courtesy
of Travis Lewis with Dekker,