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 V.20 No.4 | January 27 - February 2, 2011 

Feature

APS School Board

Education Election Guide

It’s not an election that makes more than a small blip or two on the public’s radar. Turnout is notoriously low. But 2011 sees our public school systems facing enormous stress that could force them to change course long-term.

Albuquerque Public Schools is the 30th largest district in the nation, overseeing the education and welfare of almost 90,000 students. The state is ranked 32nd in the nation and received an overall C grade in Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report released Jan. 11. New Mexico was slapped with an F in that same report for K-12 achievement. Ratings have gotten worse year by year.

Each school board candidate will tell you that these figures have to improve. The poor rankings are compounded by fears of yet another round of budget cuts when the legislative session adjourns in mid-March. This would come after serious belt-tightening in 2010 left many schools are still feeling. So how can an enormous district improve the quality of its education on a taut budget?

That’s not the only dilemma. Aging facilities, a population explosion on the Westside, achievement gaps and ideological differences add to the tension. But it’s the job of the Board of Education to make sense of these issues. The seven-member board is charged with setting policies, hiring the superintendent and sorting out the budget. The Alibi spoke with all 14 candidates in this election, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 1. Remember, everyone can vote for his or her school board representative—not just parents, teachers or students.

APS District 1 map — get a pdf here
[click to enlarge]
APS District 1 map — get a pdf here

District 1

Encompasses much of the South Valley, including Rio Grande High School, and the following middle schools: Polk, Harris, Washington and Ernie Pyle.

Dolores Griego has represented the area for four years and is facing four challengers in this election.

Dolores Griego

Dolores Griego

Occupation: Alternative to incarceration coordinator for Bernalillo County

Qualifications: Four years on the school board

Why she's running

"We have begun some really good initiatives in our district. Equitable funding is one of them."

On budget cuts

If APS loses a lot of money, the district may have to consider closing down some of the low-population Eastside schools. "It's not a popular idea." But it's better than replacing teachers in the classroom with coaches and ceasing educational programs.

On intelligent design

You have to allow children access to all theories, so yes, it should be a part of the curriculum. "My grandson came home the other day, and he said, Grandma, they're teaching me that I came from a monkey. And I said, Well, honey, our belief is that you did not come from the monkey. He said, How do you know? And I said, Well, are people still walking out of the jungles?"

On a separate Westside school system

All of the conversation about secession has been generated by the Northwest sector of town. No one else has been included. A larger discourse needs to happen that considers the perspective of every part of the city. And if it's in the best interest of our kids, then let's cut it up."

On birth control

It shouldn't be dispensed at school-based clinics. "That puts a wedge between the parent and the child, and there are enough wedges."

On the biggest problems in District 1

The South Valley is diverse, so it depends on which school you're talking about. In some schools, parental involvement needs to increase. Adequate funding is a concern across District 1.

Jay Zook

Jay Zook

Occupation: Retired Navy explosives ordinance disposalman

Qualifications: A member of the PTA and Parents Action Committee for 11 years

Why he's running

"I'm the parent, who, for many years, has been making the phone calls, sending the e-mails, beating down the doors to my children's schools to no avail."

On budget cuts

APS should work with the Legislature to decrease the amount of state-mandated tests. This would save millions and replace other money-saving measures, such as increasing classroom sizes. Perhaps the district should consider forgoing new books next year.

On intelligent design

"I believe theories are important for opening up the children's minds." As long as it's taught as a theory based on an assumption, there’s no problem.

On a separate Westside school system

"If we knew all the facts, this wouldn't be a question." An independent study should be done, and parents should vote before any steps are taken.

On birth control

It shouldn't be a part of school-based clinics at APS, he says. "If the child would like birth control, that's between the parent and the child."

On the biggest problems in District 1

Estimates show that 1,400 children leave the district to attend school in other areas of the city. The common perception is that the South Valley doesn't offer adequate education. "We have to change the mentality of the parents and change the district to show it's equal to all the other districts."

Clara Peña

Clara Peña

Occupation: Personal care attendant at Heritage Health Care

Qualifications: Co-founder of the South Valley Academy; community organizer for more than 30 years

Why she's running

"I can be a soft voice, yet a voice that everybody will listen to. I think I can pull in a large part of the community so we can work together to make improvements."

On budget cuts

It seems like people don't know where and how money is being spent, so an audit is necessary. Once there's a clear picture of where the money goes, it will be easier to figure out. The school system should think hard about finding ways to save money: "If books are being disposed of, but another school can use them, don't dispose of them."

On intelligent design

The most important skills taught in school are reading, writing and arithmetic. "It's sad when you get some kids about to go to college, and they don't know how to write." If intelligent design enters the picture, plenty of people will be asking why their creation story can't be taught. "Outside the school, parents can teach their kids whatever they want."

On a separate Westside school system

First, can Albuquerque afford the split? With an audit, maybe we'll know. "It's the people's money. If they want it to be voted on, the people should be allowed to do that." But the focus should remain on academics—so aside from smaller school systems, what would be the improvement to student life?

On birth control

Though there are a lot of pregnant teens, Peña isn't sure dispensing birth control will help. "If parents want to take it upon themselves, that's a good idea."

On the biggest problems in District 1

It's good that graduation rates have improved in the South Valley, but they have a long way to go. It would be ideal if they were in the high 80s, percentage-wise. "We also don't have a tracking system to find out who got their GED after they dropped out." Once kids obtain a certificate by graduating or getting their GEDs, we have to be sure that they're confident and knowledgeable.

Phillip Chavez

Phillip Chavez

Occupation: Retired shop teacher

Qualifications: 30-year employee of APS

Why he's running

"We need a Spanish-speaker on the board, and we need a teacher perspective."

On budget cuts

There's a lot of waste within APS, even down to the desks that are purchased. "One little foot falls off, and they take it to the salvage yard." His phone number is 321-CRUD, and if anybody has ideas about how to get rid of the crud, they should call him.

On intelligent design

It shouldn't be taught in school. "I don't think they should waste much time on religion, because the parents are going to deal with that."

On a separate Westside school system

A split would be a huge mistake, as APS already has amenities in place, such as school police, a media center, nurses, people who perform maintenance, etc. "They don't have the money."

On birth control

It should be dispensed by school-based clinics, because education includes educating kids about birth control. "Teenage pregnancy is terrible," he says. "We don't want kids having kids. I think we should study that problem and really work on it."

On the biggest problems in District 1

Gun violence and gangs have to be dealt with. Also, facilities must be upgraded, and a solid principal must be found for Rio Grande High School.

Analee Maestas

Analee Maestas

Occupation: Executive director of La Promesa Early Learning Center

Qualifications: An educator for 35 years in regular ed, special ed, bilingual education and English as a second language; has been a principal and an assistant superintendent; holds a Ph.D. in bilingual special education

Why she's running

"All of my professional career has been spent in this district. I really know what goes on in the schools. I could just retire and go away, but I feel I have much more to offer."

On budget cuts

Schools should be able to decide for themselves what cuts need to be made. "Every school is different, and the needs are different." The superintendent should look at departments and consider administrative consolidation. Budget balancing has to happen without impacting direct services to students.

On intelligent design

"It is a theory, and it should be taught as a theory." The policy on this subject should be evaluated with community input.

On a separate Westside school system

There has to be an independent study. APS needs to hear from all the people affected by the decision, including parents and leaders in the community and local business. Overall though, "I believe in small schools, small classrooms and small districts."

On birth control

Students should be informed about what options are available, and parents should be involved in the decision. But confidentiality is an issue, so a policy should be established with parental and community involvement.

On the biggest problems in District 1

Financial issues and low achievement are critical issues, as is improving collaboration and communication with all stakeholders.

APS District 2 map — get a pdf here
[click to enlarge]
APS District 2 map — get a pdf here

District 2

Encompasses much of the Westside, except for the Cibola High School / Cottonwood Mall area. Within its boundaries are West Mesa High School and the following middle schools: Truman, John Adams, Jimmy Carter, Monroe and Lyndon B. Johnson.

Robert Lucero served on the board from 1995 to 1999 and from 2007 to 2011. He’s stepping down from his post. Five candidates are running for his spot.

Greg Snyder

Greg Snyder

Occupation: Installation, customer service and sales for Wayne Dalton Garage Door Corporation

Qualifications: Bachelor's degree in business administration; was ward chair for the Bernalillo County Republican Party

Why he's running

"At the local level, there are few things that affect the quality of life more than education."

On budget cuts

Efficiency is rewarded in the private sector. But within public bureaucracies, it's punished: Allocated funds have to be spent, otherwise the department doesn't get that money in the following fiscal year. That creates waste. "Whenever legally permissible, we need to run the budget more like the private sector would."

On intelligent design

Questions such as, Where do we come from? and, Why are we here? really affect a person's worldview and outlook on life. "It's too important of an issue not to get the discussion going and let kids decide for themselves what they believe to be true."

On a separate Westside school system

The idea is appealing, but it's going to depend on the total impact on taxpayers. Snyder would not support any plan that raised taxes.

On birth control

Parents are legally responsible for children, so they have to know about their child's birth control choices. Keeping parents in the dark circumvents that responsibility.

On the biggest problems in District 2

"It's just the quality of education that our students get." New Mexico is failing compared to other states. "The dropout rate is a big problem. That increases crime and poverty."

Katherine Korte

Katherine Korte

Occupation: Regional elections coordinator for five states

Qualifications: PTA president; led an effort to fight block schedules and a change in school-day start times last year

Why she's running

"We are facing some really critical issues in our students’ education in the next year with the new administration in Santa Fe. There is no doubt in my mind that we have to really think hard about what direction we want to take with APS."

On budget cuts

Last year saw big cuts and the effects are still being felt. "To tell parents and teachers that cuts have to start in classroom because there's no where else to cut up top—we don't believe it."

On intelligent design

Scientific theories are adequate for in-school instruction. "I was looking at my son's sixth-grade science book, and the way it's presented is just fine with me. Keep it to the science of it all and let me decide as a parent how to incorporate our faith doctrine into what my children are learning in school."

On a separate Westside school system

If it would make better students, she's for it. Proponents of the split presented a report last year that made a lot of sense. But APS' rebuttal seemed valid, too. There's been no objective analysis to substantiate the claims about benefits and drawbacks. Either way, this is something that should take years to decide to make sure all pertinent perspectives are considered.

On birth control

It shouldn't be dispensed in school-based clinics. When she's thinking about her own four children, she wouldn't want them to have the opportunity to get birth control without her involvement. "I want to be part of that discussion with my child. That's a heavy, weighty decision that I want a say in."

On the biggest problems in District 2

There's a prevalent feeling in this district that parents and teachers are not being heard by APS. "When you have that, Oh well, they're not listening to us anyway, it's really hard to get people involved in the schools."

Peter Sanchez

Peter Sanchez

Occupation: CEO of the Atrisco Companies, formerly Westland Development Corporation

Qualifications: Chairman of the National Hispanic Cultural Center board; on the Hispano Chamber of Commerce board and the Golden Apple Foundation board

Why he's running

"In our company, as stewards of the land grant, we want to work to make as good a community as possible. Schools are integral to building a strong Westside community."

On budget cuts

There's a myth that administrative areas of APS are not very large. "The component of the budget that is directed to non-instructional areas is about 35 percent of a $630 million budget, so that's actually over $200 million in value." There should be cost savings and efficiency opportunities to balance the budget without affecting the classroom.

On intelligent design

"I personally think that kids should be exposed to lots of different theories of evolution and creation and so forth." But intelligent design opens the door to a form of Christian religious instruction. "It's a bit of a slippery slope, and in general, that concerns me." Sanchez says he needs to understand the pros and cons of the issue better before coming down on one side or the other.

On a separate Westside school system

The jury's out on this one. To say that data suggests it's a good idea is premature. "I'm open to the concept of the discussion of this issue, but I'm not ready to say yet it's a good or bad thing."

On birth control

"I guess I'd have to have more information about what is behind school-based medical institutions. What is the objective here?"

On the biggest problems in District 2

Student achievement is not where it needs to be. "It's the achievement gap, so it's about minority achievement, but it is about all students' achievement." The Westside has grown quickly, and infrastructure needs are not being addressed. The population explosion has also created under-representation of the Westside on the school board. "You can have all the wonderful ideas in the world, but you can't get them across if you don't have the votes."

Felix Nuñez

Felix Nuñez

Occupation: Senior investigator with the New Mexico District Attorney's Office

Qualifications: A member of many APS boards, including PTAs and booster clubs; director of the junior law enforcement program Metro Explorers

Why he's running

"I'm a parent. I'm a concerned citizen about how things are being run. We need a fresh start with someone who is straightforward."

On budget cuts

Is it possible to merge some departments within APS? Maybe the Westside homebuilders should be responsible for covering the costs of new schools, too. "I don't have the magic pill." The school board needs to team up with the City Council, the County Commission and the Legislature to find money for the budget.

On intelligent design

We live in a melting pot in Albuquerque. If we can find a curriculum that suits everyone's needs, then it's a possibility. Right now, no.

On a separate Westside school system

Nuñez has been against this idea from the beginning. "We're not ready for that." Such a move would hurt APS' budget.

On birth control

Parents should sign a permission slip that allows their children to consult with school-based clinics on these topics in high school. Education on the risks of sex is vital. "Before we hand out a condom, we have to educate them on what's out there."

On the biggest problems in District 2

"The size." The district that houses overspilling classrooms and a big stretch of the Westside has only one representative on the school board. That's not right.

John Herrera

John Herrera

Occupation: Counselor at Rio Grande High School

Qualifications: 43 years in education, 39 with APS

Why he's running

"Because of the achievement level of our kids. Our kids are way below even the 60th percentile. They should be above the 70th percentile. It's unacceptable."

On budget cuts

First, the administration should feel the pinch. If the cuts make their way down to schools, staff members who are not in the classroom should be evaluated next. Administrators that want to stay in education should go back to teaching. "Many of them haven't been in the classroom for years, and they need to know what it's like on the front lines."

On intelligent design

If evolution is being taught, then intelligent design should also be included so that students can see the difference and make up their minds about the truth. "I think studying the Grand Canyon can show that the Earth is not as old as many scientists claim it to be."

On a separate Westside school system

The economy right now is not conducive to forming a new school district. Plus, there's not enough information on the tax base or the bonds that paid for new Westside school construction. Once that information is available, "in the end, it should be sent to the community to vote on it."

On birth control

It shouldn't be dispensed by school-based clinics. "Students up to the age of 18 are under the guidance of their parents, and parents need to make that decision."

On the biggest problems in District 2

"Achievement. Our students needs to learn how to read, write, and they need to have math skills." Pupils shouldn't be promoted from grade to grade unless they know the basics. Finally, ninth-graders don't belong in high school, and sixth-graders should go back to elementary school.

APS District 4 map — get a pdf here
[click to enlarge]
APS District 4 map — get a pdf here

District 4

Encompasses much of central Albuquerque, including the University Area and Midtown. Within its boundaries are Highland High School and the following middle schools: Wilson, Jefferson, McKinley and Cleveland. Albuquerque High School lies just outside its bounds, but many students in this area feed into the school.

Marty Esquivel has been on the board for four years and has been president for two. He faces three challengers.

Cheryl Harris

Cheryl Harris

Occupation: Retired from U.S. West as the area manager for real estate operations and administrative services in Utah, Idaho and Montana

Qualifications: Has worked with nonprofits

Why she's running

"Because I don't feel the current school board has been courageous enough and innovative enough to really tackle the problems."

On budget cuts

“The first thing I'd like to look at is supporting and encouraging our Legislature to look at revenue increases.” If that doesn't pan out, administrative expenses should be evaluated, as well as any positions where there might be a duplication of effort.

On intelligent design

It shouldn't be taught as a scientific theory. The topic would be better suited for a cultural class or a course on comparative religions. "There are a lot of creation stories, not just the Christian story."

On a separate Westside school system

The matter should be studied further. "We have different communities around each high school." Another concern is that inequality between APS and the Westside system could result.

On birth control

At this time, she isn't sure. "It's awkward and touchy, because you've got the parent-child relationship or the doctor-patient relationship. I'm not sure which one legally or morally has the priority.”

On the biggest problems in District 4

The achievement gap. "The high-school graduation rate at Highland is low." The children of poverty perform poorly and it should be addressed.

Candido Arturo Archuleta Jr.

Candido Arturo Archuleta Jr.

Occupation: Consultant planner who works with Spanish and Mexican land grant communities

Qualifications: Policy advocacy at the state and federal levels; on the PTA; appointed to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration review commission in 2009; on the federal Collaborative Forest Restoration Program Technical Advisory Panel

Why he's running

"I'm the first generation to go to college in my family. I felt a duty and responsibility to utilize my skills and give back to the community."

On budget cuts

Ancillary and administrative services need to be cut first. There should also be more community input and a better effort on APS' part to get that input. "There's also got to be better ways to raise revenues. If we continue on this economic slope, there are going to be cuts again and again."

On intelligent design

Most scientific thought is based on theories, so intelligent design as a theory needs to be taught. We have to make students aware that there are multiple ways to consider the issue.

On a separate Westside school system

Because there are no dual-language schools in their area, Archuleta's son goes to school outside of his district. If the school system was split a certain way, he could end up with no dual-language option. At the same time, "we're talking about having the 30th largest school district in the nation but the second smallest population by state." A study needs to be done by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at UNM.

On birth control

"The reality is we have students in school that are sexually active." Paramount to their success is their health, safety and general welfare. Archuleta is 33, and when he was in high school, there were sexually active teens. "Just because some people don't think it's appropriate doesn't keep them from doing it."

On the biggest problems in District 4

A lot of kids could make use of a dual-language school. There are also some primary Spanish speakers whose needs aren't being met.

Marty Esquivel

Marty Esquivel

Occupation: Lawyer

Qualifications: School board member for four years, president for the last two; PTA president; on the city's Charter Review Task Force; former president of New Mexico Foundation for Open Government

Why he's running

"We have some problems. It takes a problem-solver to take care of that. I've established myself as someone who speaks my mind."

On budget cuts

Demands to bridge the achievement gap and raise graduation rates while simultaneously decreasing the budget don't make sense. "We have to be strong advocates and say, No more cuts."

On intelligent design

It's a distraction and shouldn't be taught in schools. "We're fine the way we are. I don't think that's something that's important to parents."

On a separate Westside school system

A smaller school district does not translate to smaller classes. And it's not affordable in our financial situation. Plus, "Do you want to create two Albuquerques with two districts?" Another point to consider is that APS made an investment by building 11 new schools on the Westside.

On birth control

School-based health clinics "should be able to dispense birth control based on their own physician-patient relationship." But it shouldn't be endorsed by the school district.

On the biggest problems in District 4

Addressing the achievement gap should be a higher priority. Schools and parents need to collaborate on identifying the kids who are most at risk. Innovation in the classroom is also vital. Instructors have to find a way to teach to a generation that sees books as vestigial.

Charles MacQuigg

Charles MacQuigg

Occupation: Retired shop teacher

Qualifications: 25-year employee of APS

Why he's running

"Teachers at APS have between them more than 100,000 years of teaching experience. They've never had a seat at the table."

On budget cuts

The top dogs must be lean and mean. "Every dime of waste in the administration needs to be eliminated." All the stakeholders should then have a say in how the budget is divided.

On intelligent design

"Everything that a student wants to learn about should be available in public schools." But schools should not take any kind of position on religion. "A number of stakeholders think [intelligent design] is legitimate; that provides the legitimacy."

On a separate Westside school district

The governance of the schools system needs to be divided—not once, not twice, but 163 times. That's the number of schools in the system. Each one should be self-governing. The power should not be at the top of the pyramid, but at the bottom. However, "APS needs an overarching administration to ensure compliance with federal mandates and state laws." So, no separate Westside school system.

On birth control

"If a parent comes to a school and says, You will not give my child birth control, I don't see how school can override it." MacQuigg is a firm believer in contraception, but he's not a fan of the government telling a parents how to raise their children.

On the biggest problems in District 4

Problems reach across districts. The administration is not holding itself accountable. "A half-million dollars in damage from frozen pipes demonstrates not holding themselves to high levels of competence, either."

All voters in these districts who registered before Jan. 4 are eligible to cast ballots in the APS/CNM election. Find your polling location at bernco.gov/wherevote or call 468-1291.
 

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