ALBUQUERQUE – Decades after leaving New Mexico in disgrace, a noted Mexican-American scholar and key figure in school desegregation got a school dedicated in his honor in his hometown of Albuquerque.
Albuquerque Public Schools officials on Friday formally dedicated the George I. Sanchez Collaborative Community School for the former superintendent, whose name graces a dozen or so educational institutions in Texas and California, but until recently was virtually unknown in his birth city.
At the height of his career, Sanchez was a trail-blazing professor who played a key role in some of the nation’s most important school desegregation cases. But a political dispute and arguments over funding for poor schools forced him to leave New Mexico.
“We are righting a historical wrong,” board member Lorenzo Garcia said. “I’m proud that we are honoring him after all these years.”
The civil-rights advocate was born in Albuquerque in 1906 and worked as a rural teacher and education administrator before becoming one of the nation’s most influential Latino scholars. His 1940 book Forgotten People was one of the first to document how Hispanics around Taos, New Mexico, were losing land and influence to poverty.
He later took a job in Venezuela to train that nation’s teachers and then was hired at the University of Texas in Austin.
There, Martinez wrote other books, became a national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens and corresponded with NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall on desegregation strategy. He died in 1972.
The new kindergarten-through-eighth-grade George I. Sanchez Collaborative Community School is located in the South Valley, a largely immigrant and Mexican-American part of town. It is believed to be the first named after Sanchez in New Mexico.
Principal Gene Saavedra said the staff designed the school to be a collaborative learning environment with a focus on dual-language instruction. During a tour of the school, Saavedra pointed to the many pennants of colleges hanging from the wall.
“I’m getting goose bumps,” said Cynthia Kennedy, a Santa Fe teacher and the granddaughter of Sanchez. “He would have loved this school and its focus on total learning.”
The dedication comes as school board members are set Monday to vote on the future of Superintendent Luis Valentino.
Valentino, who has been school chief only since June, is facing calls for his resignation after he hired an administrator charged with child sex abuse in Colorado. That administrator, Jason Martinez, has since resigned and was rearrested this week in Colorado for violating the terms of his bond agreement.