Alibi V.28 No.41 • Oct 10-16, 2019 

News Interview

Community College Election

Virginia Trujillo Reps CNM in District 6

Virginia Trujillo
Virginia Trujillo
Corey Yazzie

The Local Election Act was passed by the New Mexico State Legislature in 2018. The next year, the act was updated by our state government, through HB 407. One of the most important aspects of these two legislative acts involves the timing of local elections and their consolidation with other elections.

Previously, certain elections, like those for city school boards, community college governing bodies and for the approval of bond issues, could take place at times other than regularly scheduled general or primary elections. After the act became law, these smaller elections were to be mixed into larger voter engagements, the November general election and/or June primary elections, specifically.

This change was seen as a boon for voters and candidates, as the previous mechanism often resulted in low media attention, low voter turn-out and a general disinterest in smaller governmental bodies and issues.

This year, the November general election is coming around the bend. On Tuesday, Nov. 5, city residents will vote for city councilors in Districts 2, 4, 6 and 8. In addition—and as always—citizens will also be given the chance to give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to several bond issues.

On top of that, there are also Albuquerque Public School Board candidates up for election as well as a contest to elect board members to Central New Mexico Community College’s Governing Board.

We’ll cover the school board elections next week. In the meantime, it’s critical to note that the CNM elections—which cover representation on the board in Districts 2, 4 and 6—are proceeding without much contestation. That is to say that 2 of the 3 districts affected by this election are running unopposed candidates who will likely be re-elected and continue serving the community.

That’s not the case in one of those districts, however. In District 6—which includes much of the North Valley—incumbent board member Virginia Trujillo is being challenged by former CNM sociology professor and current Sandoval County special advocate Layne McAdoo.

Both candidates are Democrats and both have a solid history of working with the community and the college. In order to find out more about what her incumbency offers stakeholders moving forward—as well as to get an idea of some of the programs CNM offers—Weekly Alibi met with Trujillo, who is also the Secretary of the CNM Governing Board.

Weekly Alibi: Ms. Trujillo, can you please tell us your story for those of our readers who are unfamiliar with what you and the CNM Governing Board do?

Virginia Trujillo: My family is a union family. We’re working class people. So I grew up knowing all about unions and the trades. I sat on the TVI [Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute, CNM’s predecessor] board many years ago, after I received my master’s degree in secondary and adult education with an emphasis on trades and workforce development.

Did you feel you were particularly suited to the position on the board?

Yes.

When the institution changed and became a community college—including liberal arts and associate degree programs with the option of transferring to UNM—how did that affect your position?

Well, I wasn’t on the board when that happened, but there was a segue into a 2-year institution. I think that the change has provided a great opportunity for people in New Mexico. I say that because, at the national level, they’re looking at [education proposals] that look at K-14.

What do you mean by K-14? I know that traditionally, educators speak about K-12 as the time period that folks go to from kindergarten through high school.

Now at the national level, they’re looking at articulating a link between K-12 and two-year institutions like CNM, so it’s called K-14.

So is this a matter of transitioning students from high school to an associates program or a trades program at the community college?

Correct. And then transitioning to the university. When I was on the state board of education, we worked really hard on articulation, on creating a link between K-12 and the universities. We wanted the two-year institution’s credits to transfer to the universities in the state. K-14 is a national movement to modify that formula to include community colleges, so that we get more students into higher education. We’ve always had programs, at TVI and CNM, where high school students could go, but now we have two schools on campus, two high schools.

Tell me a little more about the high schools at CNM.

We’re really excited to have two high schools on campus, the College and Career High School and the Native American Community Academy. The first is a magnet school, the other is a charter school. Both are governed by CNM and are on the main [CNM] campus.

How did these schools get linked up with CNM?

We have a partnership with APS. We want to tell people that we support New Mexico kids going to two-year postsecondary [schools] because when they graduate from high school, they will already have a two-year degree.

And that’s in addition to their high school diploma?

Yes. All of their electives are CNM classes. The professors don’t know if they are high school students or not.

When did that start?

That started about 3 or 4 years ago. I was on the board after that started. I’ve been serving on the board for four years now.

Tell me a little bit about your work since you’ve been on the governing board.

We evaluate the president and now we’re doing a search because President Winograd is retiring. She’s been innovative, she’s done a really good job. As a board, we really want to work with the community on economic development. We’re working closely with new players in that area, like Netflix and Facebook.

Those facilities need highly trained individuals to work for them, que no?

Yes, and we’re training them to get jobs there.

How is that task going?

It’s going really well. We’re going to have a program in film production at the Railyards [once that site is fully restored and redeveloped]. It will provide a professional learning environment for students learning the film production trade. But we’re also doing other innovative things. My goal is to work with local unions a little more closely.

What does that look like?

To me, the unions are the backbone of the middle class. If you do away with unions, you do away with the middle class and that’s showing right now. What we want to do is to make sure those people are taken care of. To me, the faculty and staff are the most important part of CNM. They’re down in the trenches.

Here’s a corollary question: UNM’s faculty is fighting for union representation. Does that fit in with what your institution is doing?

We’re unionized at CNM, faculty and staff.

As the only member of the CNM Board who’s being challenged this election cycle, what are your plans moving forward?

My platform is to continue the excellence in governance that we’ve established at CNM in the past four years. During my term, we were ranked Number One of all the community colleges in the nation. We’re Number One in graduating Native American and Hispanic students, too, with associates degrees and certificates [one-year programs]. We’re Number Two in the country, overall, for our graduation rate and I’m really proud to be a part of that.

Whenever I visit CNM, I am astounded at how much more together—educationally, physically, philosophically—it seems than UNM. How do explain that very cool difference?

It’s the culture. It’s a supportive and inclusive culture. As we search for a new president, we’re looking for someone who can maintain that culture of caring. For me, I just want to make sure that the new president understands the culture at CNM. Many four year institutions weed students out for the first two years. We don’t do that, our students are from different age groups, have different abilities, there are a lot of adult learners at CNM. We get a lot of people coming to school to be retrained. We have tutors everywhere! We do everything we can to keep our students in school.

Why should you be re-elected?

My whole career has been about educating at-risk students. I know what it takes to be an effective teacher. I care and I know about the things that will encourage economic development in this city and this state, particularly as regards workforce development and local unions. I really believe in the effectiveness of the faculty and staff at CNM. To me, it’s the faculty and the staff that have made CNM an excellent educational organization. I want to have the opportunity to build on that. I’ve always been an advocate for students, no matter what age, from the age of four to adults looking for the next step in their educational and career journey. I believe in education; that’s the key to get people out of poverty and into jobs that benefit them, their families and the community.