Rocinante High School
Farmington, New Mexico
Farmington is located in Northwest New Mexico, it borders the Navajo and Apache Reservations, and is within a couple of hours from the Colorado, Arizona, and Utah borders. Farmington was an Anglo community established to provide support for mining towns to the north; however, after the discovery of local gas and coal resources it is now primarily a town supported by petro-chemical industries and a retail hub for neighboring communities.
Culturally, we are a mixture of white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestants, Hispanic and Chicano Catholics, and many Navajo and some Apache peoples. San Juan County is primarily Republican, but most of the Navajo and other minority groups vote Democrat or Independent.
Rocinante was first established in the late 70s in a portable specifically situated to isolate pregnant teenage girls from mainstream high school. Over the decades it grew to accommodate other young people who were in trouble with the law or got expelled from the traditional high school (FHS). By the late 90s, Rocinante had evolved into an alternative school for students with myriad issues and obstacles, including students with IEPs, diagnosed mental disorders, addiction problems, kids with social anxiety, etc.
Our school’s focus and mission has always been on the student and how we can guide them toward individual success. The demographics of our student population reflect 73% minority: 46% of RHS students are Native American (primarily Navajo). Students of Hispanic descent are 25% of the student body, and 27% are White, or Anglo-American.
The following is a list of the many reasons students gravitate to our school and want to remain and graduate: We operate on a block schedule; hence students can earn more credits per year as compared to the other traditional high schools (i.e., 8 credits at RHS vs. 6 credits at PVHS/FHS), students have the option to take credit recovery classes through Edgenuity either from home, during night school or during an assigned day school class period; our flexible schedule, 8:00am to 7:00pm, supports students’ schedule choices.
Additionally, San Juan College, our community college, is a 15-minute walk from our school campus in the event a student has transportation issues while taking a Dual Credit class. Per school year, we average about 200 students total at any given time, thus, our class sizes are smaller enabling teachers to learn who each student is and work more closely with them. Moreover, the social aspect of our school tends to focus more collectively on graduating rather than on sports or extracurricular activities. And most importantly, Rocinante has an incredibly low staff and teacher turn-over rate, which means that our school embodies years and years of experience in specific content areas and interaction with students and their families.
The challenges facing our school, both historically and currently, are not unique. Each year we have a large number of students who battle mental health issues, usually resulting from some tragedy or traumatic incident and poverty or a lack of financial resources; thus, this manifests itself in poor attendance, apathy, low academic skills, classroom behavior problems, and a lack of parental support.
Rocinante’s culture and focus hinges on positive teacher and student attitudes, low staff turnover, and a familial atmosphere. Teachers and staff focus on helping students achieve their goals, whether they are to attend college, the military or to join the workforce. The staff individualize education one student at a time. Rocinante staff have taken several steps to achieve the redesign, such as student-centered learning. More specifically, three teachers have engaged in project-based learning in our fourth term.