Mark Forman is the new head administrator for Cottonwood Valley Charter School. He comes to Socorro directly from Espanola, but had previously worked as assistant principal at Parkview Elementary.
Where are you originally from?
Originally from Los Angeles, been all over the country, mostly for education. I went to Seattle for University, University of Washington, and then ended up in Delaware for my first Teach for America teaching assignment and then Dallas for my first admin assignment and then New York working at a charter school as a principal and then New Mexico actually working for Teach for America, to explore a small charter in Albuquerque.
So you’ve been all over the country?
It’s been a fascinating thing and it seems like the common element is that I get invited or brought out to places where I really never would have imagined myself having been there before I got there.
What do you like best about Socorro so far?
It’s a community that is really wanting the best for everybody. I think there’s a lot of hands in the pot in trying to think through what we can do to be and see all of our young people successful. There’s a lot of gratitude in all levels as well, and those are really appealing in ways that you can’t see in the bigger places as much.
What made you want to be an educator in the first place?
It was the drive to help empower others independent of background. That resonates with me personally coming from a station where I didn’t have the strongest supports and my siblings didn’t have the strongest supports and I barely made it to where I am today. I’m fortunate, and I certainly can speak to the environment of low expectations and not knowing what I’m doing and have lived it with my siblings and a lot of my friends from back in the day. That’s always been a driving force which is what pushed me to do Teach for America in the first place, which is what led me to do this work.
I didn’t realize this is how I was going to do this. I initially wanted to be a counselor. I didn’t realize until I got to the end of the undergrad that I needed much more advanced degrees to go be in counseling and then I realized I needed a bevy of recommendations and lab experience that I didn’t have, so shoot what do I do?
On a whim I went to South Africa on the university programs to fill my summer and you had to do a community project. Mine ended up being working with a school on the weekends, but it was more focused on helping develop social pieces such as how to work through religious tolerance and HIV prevention and drug awareness with middle school aged children that were essentially under de facto apartheid. Seeing the impact I could have doing that type of work made me want to come back and move into education and gave me an answer to what I wanted to solve, so to speak.
I love teaching. I’ve always loved teaching. I would prefer to be teaching, but out of necessity I feel like I’ve been pushed into admin roles, because unfortunately there’s a lot of schools that don’t have incredibly strong structures and that impacts kids in a negative way and that’s what continues to keep me in these kinds of roles. I think every admin role I’ve had I’ll pick up a class or two of mid school or high school ELA and do my thing there, which I always enjoy.
What most excites you about the upcoming school year?
The fertile ground so to speak. There’s a lot of really great pieces here and it’s trying to think how to synthesize those together to build on an already strong foundation to make it even greater and I’m really excited about what potential can come from that. So really re-engaging with our community in a meaningful way, really helping 100 percent of our students make that academic growth, getting them vested in the work of the school, so instead of us just doing things to them, doing it with them. Building structures for that.
We’re doing it with the teachers as well. We’re thinking about structures to help support them in being better able or more strongly able to leverage data in response to kids who need support and do it in a way that’s going to be more effective than just saying this kid is not there and I need to refer him to special education kind of thing. There’s a lot of other things that we can do in between and preventing as many kids as possible from needing that level of support, because most kids don’t need that kind of support.
When you’re not being an educator, do you do anything for fun? Do you have any hobbies?
I run about eight miles every morning, so I’m seen on the streets of Socorro running, sometimes recognized. Sometimes running away from dogs that are loose. So I have that and then as a former English teacher I love my literature, so regularly reading a bevy of materials.
I travel a ton. I’ve been to all 50 states, country list keeps expanding. It’s still below 20. Still have to get to the South American continent and I believe that’s my last continent. Well, Antarctica of course too. And sports. I’m a huge Philadelphia Eagles, go to just about every game even living out here, you see me fly to Philly or where ever if it’s on the road.
Do you have a favorite author?
That’s a complicated question. One of my favorite authors is James Baldwin because he advocates for equity in a very direct manner, but also sometimes through indirect literary forms. So, I share a cause, although his equity driving is around making sure that everyone, specifically thinking of Black rights at the time, and then he also identified as gay, so that was part of what he was advocating for too.
I just believe in equity and I believe in attaining it. Not in a shout in your face kind of way, but also in a direct way, not in a stand on the sideline kind of way of just, say we’ll wait till next year. When you read his texts, you’ll see that sometimes communicated really directly and sometimes communicated really discretely through a novel.
Anything else you want the Socorro community to know about you?
Just thrilled to be here and really work with everybody to support our kids and not just this group here, but, like I tell the staff, putting on the whole school hat, I really want to put on the whole community hat and really think about how do we enable our kids to potentially dream of being the next governor of the state that come from Socorro, the next lead doctor, the next break through creator of something. How do we get them to have those same aspirations so that it’s equitable? I really want to think through how we leverage all this energy to make those things happen, so it’s not just the oddity but it becomes more of the norm. Like we’re not just celebrating a 70 percent or 80 percent graduation rate. We expect a 100 percent graduation rate from high school and we talk about our kids when they’re 25 and the awesome incredible things that they’re leading the country, state and world in maybe.