From left, departing school board members Ryan Parra, Katherine Covey and Ramon Montaño pose for a photo with their commemorative plaques at last Monday’s meeting. Gary Herron photo.

Since Rio Rancho Public Schools’ inaugural board of education was formed in 1993, there has always been at least one woman, and often three, on the five-person decision-making board.

In January, and for the next two years at least, there will be four female board members: Current members Catherine Cullen and Wynne Coleman, and recently elected members Amanda Galbraith and Noreen Scott.

In November 2021, newcomer Jeffery Morgan — who ran unopposed last month for the District 3 seat vacated by short-timer Katherine Covey, who replaced former member Martha Janssen in April — will have completed the Janssen’s four-year term. Thus there’s a 50-50 chance a fifth female board member could take her seat.

The two remaining board members — board president Cullen and VP Coleman, whose terms expire in 2021 — and Superintendent Sue Cleveland lauded the outgoing trio, which included Ramon Montaño and Ryan Parra, for their eight-plus combined years of service on the board.

Montaño: “You served this community with great service and dedication,” Cullen told the outgoing District 2 board member, adding, “We didn’t always see eye-to-eye.”

“One of the things I always appreciated,” Cleveland said, “was you were willing to talk to me and listen.”

Para told Montaño he’d been helpful in making Parra a better board member, and Coleman — whose basketball-playing daughter had been coached by Montaño — said he’d always have “a special place in our family.”

Montaño told the board, “It’s been a great ride.”

His advice to the new trio was to “be patient, (and) have an open mind.”

Parra: Coleman touted Parra as the board member “more technically prepared,” and Cleveland noted he’d been the first RRPS graduate to serve on the school board.

“You are a kind gentleman,” Cullen said. “You have such a love for our students, especially (career-technical education) and eSports. … It’s been such a pleasure working with you.”

Parra thanked the board for being allowed to serve and said at one time in his life, he’d wanted to be a teacher. In 2020, he’s headed to Uganda to teach agricultural development.

“All I wanted to do was help the community,” Parra said. “”I hope one day this community is as proud of me as I am of the community.”

Covey: Coleman said it was disappointing to see Covey leave because of her “wealth of insight.”

“I think you made us all better board members,” Montaño said. “The short amount of time you were here, you made a huge difference.”

Parra related a story about how Janssen had taken him out to dinner shortly after he’d been elected in 2015, and how, four years later, he took Covey out to dinner.

“You dove in the deep end, straight from the get-go,” he added.

Cullen touted Covey’s attention to detail.

Covey, who decided not to run in November, said she was happy to see “how much you all care about our school district. It was really fun to get to do this.”

Once the accolades were given, the board got down to its business of giving the prerequisite first reading to the remaining policies in the 200 series, which it had started a week earlier.

The board’s next meeting, at which Galbraith, Morgan and Scott will be sworn in, is set for 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 13.