Superintendent of Cuba Independent Schools Karen Sanchez-Griego sits on a stone that will act as a student’s chair for an upcoming outside classroom in Cuba. Sanchez-Griego has worked hard in the last three years since becoming superintendent to help kids get laptops and reflective reading material.
Photo Stephen Montoya

The sound of construction permeates the air at 50 County Road 13, across the street from the Cuba Independent Schools Administration Building. Landscapers are busy putting the finishing touches on this $1.2 million, 5,000-square-foot hub for the school administrative staff.

Currently, the many departments that help run the day-to-day school 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 is the superintendent of Cuba Independent Schools, Karen Sanchez-Griego. Her experience and knowledge of the area are felt as she prepares to put into a nutshell her passion for education.

“I am committed to help the Village of Cuba bring equity to its educational system; this is my main goal,” she said.

Recently, Sanchez -Griego said she was able to give the Cuba libraries more reflective material for the young students in the area to have access to and read.

“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 to place computers in many students’ 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 (Sandoval County) Commissioner (F. Kenneth) Eichwald was instrumental in was helping the kids that graduated from high school walk away with that very laptop,” she said.

For this to happen, she said, the Sandoval County Commission had to look for funding up to $36,000 so students graduating could have the computers 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 (Public Education 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.

“This is something I think needs to continue,” she said.

Sanchez-Griego is trying to find funding that will allow the senior class of 2021 at Cuba High School to also keep their laptops post-graduation.  As for a new administration building, Sanchez-Griego said it will open soon.