Editor’s note: We invited Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education candidates to respond to a questionnaire regarding their candidacy and thoughts on the district. The responses for District 1 candidates are below. They were not edited.
Why have you decided to run for the Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education? Our students and children need a voice, and the best advocate for children is parents. My two oldest, Charlotte and Marie, attend Sandia Vista Elementary. The last twelve months of school closures have dramatically set back the education of our children. We must protect our childrens’ ability to attend school safely.
What is the most-pressing issue within Rio Rancho Public Schools? We must ensure that schools stay open and stay safe. The injection of politics into the classroom is a growing concern. It is critical that we keep politics out of education.
We must ensure that the maximum amount of funding reaches the classroom. By increasing transparency, limiting unnecessary expenditures, and trimming bureaucracy we can deliver more funding to classrooms where it can do the most good.
What are your priorities for the district in the coming year? Addressing literacy shortcomings is critical. We can put in place proven science-based programs to promote literacy, as well as properly train teachers on how to implement them. Charter school applications need to be readily available. The past 12 months have taught us that parents need as much choice as possible when it comes to public education. Increasing transparency is a proven method for improving student outcomes. Allowing parents to keep a watchful eye on school spending and curriculum changes will improve accountability, as well as ensure the curriculum has their approval.
The current makeup of the school board voiced its concerns at an August meeting for more local control. What are your thoughts on that? More local control means returning control over student education to parents. Parents know what is best for their own children and should be empowered to make decisions for them.
What skills do you have to offer and are willing to use on behalf of the organization? Communication, communication, communication. Communication is so important, especially between the board and parents, the administration and staff, and among our entire community. I bring years of proven and effective communication skills to the RRPS school board.
As nonprofit leader, my expertise in fiscal responsibility will go far to ensure that RRPS is delivering the maximum amount of funding to the classroom as possible. We must limit bureaucratic waste and ensure that school funding is delivered to teachers in classrooms. As an engaged citizen, I care deeply about our institutions. The skills I employ in keeping government agencies accountable across New Mexico will ensure that our schools remain committed to the priority of teaching our children.
How can you improve this board of education? The school board does not solicit guidance from parents and children as often as they ought to. Our school board is responsible for representing the entire district of parents and children, and I have never once received communication from the board about how I believe the district should change or improve. There are inexpensive tools that we can use to communicate with parents to determine which issues have the highest priority and need to be addressed. Within reason, we should act on the desires of the majority of parents. When was the last time a survey was sent by the school board to parents requesting feedback?
Prior to declaring your intentions to run, how often did you attend school board meetings? Periodically. When school board meetings were broadcast remotely, it increased the ability of parents to attend. This was a positive step towards improving transparency, which in turn promotes trust in the institution.
What would you like to tell voters — maybe even a promise — that you’ll make happen if elected? My children attend RRPS schools, so you can rely on my promise that I will always put kids first — they are counting on us!
What can you do as a board member to help improve student achievement? I will work to help build a more solid foundation for learning at an earlier age. Establishing literacy at an earlier age increases productive learning time. I will work to fund more extracurricular activities to allow more opportunities for students to find their calling. I will work to increase school choice, giving parents a wider range of educational options for their kids.
Why have you decided to run for the Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education? I was the principal of Rio Rancho High School from 2000 to 2004 and a district administrator from 2015 through 2017. This experience has given me deep knowledge of the educational needs and challenges of our community. It has also endowed me with an enduring commitment to providing a high quality education to all students. I am inspired to run by my former students. They are now young adults with careers as police officers, firefighters, first responders, business owners, military personnel, lawyers, and teachers, among many other roles in our community. Their children are currently attending Rio Rancho Public Schools.
My former students know that I will work tirelessly to ensure their children get the best education possible. My former colleagues at RRPS — from teachers and instructional aides in the classroom to cafeteria and maintenance workers, custodians, bus drivers, and administrative assistants — know that we all worked together as a team to provide a first-class education for every child. As a school board member, I will contribute my expertise and leadership to working with our superintendent and fellow board members to promote policies, procedures, budgets, and expenditure of bond monies to achieve ever-higher levels of excellence in our Rio Rancho schools.
What is the most-pressing issue within Rio Rancho Public Schools? Protecting the safety and wellbeing of students and staff is the number one issue facing RRPS.
What are your priorities for the district in the coming year?
• Promoting Career Technical Education (CTE) — our community needs welders, plumbers, computer technicians, electricians, mechanics, and much more. Robust high school through adult educational offerings in these areas will lead to well-paying careers for our graduates.
• Supporting the mental health of our students as we work through this pandemic.
• Ensuring traffic safety around our schools during drop-off and pick up times.
• Fulfilling our responsibilities under the Martinez-Yazzie lawsuit.
The current makeup of the school board voiced its concerns at an August meeting for more local control. What are your thoughts on that? This is a serious issue requiring in depth research and discussion. Before taking a position, I need to thoroughly understand the rationale, pros and cons, perspectives of local legislative leaders, effect on RRPS funding, and views of parents and teachers.
What skills do you have to offer and are willing to use on behalf of the organization? I am an exceptionally experienced educator and servant leader whose life’s work has been devoted to K-12 education. I understand the diverse concerns of parents, teachers, students, and community members. I have extensive knowledge of best practices in education throughout the country and will bring the best ideas to our school board, city council, and county commission. I also have excellent interpersonal skills and have demonstrated the ability to collaborate with colleagues and stakeholders to achieve results.
How can you improve this board of education? I am personally familiar with the needs of our school district and how we can build on its many strengths. I have practical, constructive ideas for improving our schools to best serve all students. My experience as a Rio Rancho educator will add a unique and important perspective to the mix of school board members.
Prior to declaring your intentions to run, how often did you attend school board meetings? I didn’t miss one school board meeting in the two years I worked in the District Office I have attended remote board meetings on and off since the pandemic started.
What would you like to tell voters — maybe even a promise — that you’ll make happen if elected? I promise that Gary Tripp will show up to work hard, listen to his constituents, and collaborate with his follow board members. I promise that every vote I cast will be in the best interest of our students and staff.
What can you do as a board member to help improve student achievement? I have a track record of hiring top notch educators and can be a part of the process for continuing to do so. I will seek candidates from our local universities and around the country. Because higher average daily attendance delivers higher student achievement, I can advocate for more after-school K-12 programs, including music, band, language classes, skills camps, etc.
Such programs help keep students engaged and wanting to attend school. With learning loss during the pandemic and our students needing more social interaction, smaller student-teacher ratios make sense for the next several years. I can work with the superintendent and other board members to assess class sizes. Should smaller classes be needed, I can work with the superintendent and my colleagues to obtain the assistance of our state legislators.