BELENThe Belen Board of Education made efficient work of selecting a candidate to fill the vacant District 1 seat on the board during a special meeting last week. 

On a 4-0 vote, the board members chose Joanne Silva as the newest member. As an appointee to the board, Silva will serve until the 2025 local election cycle. If she wishes to retain the seat, she will have to run for the office. 

Joanne Silva

During a phone interview Monday afternoon, Silva said it feels good to be appointed to the board. 

“I’ve been part of the academic community in Valencia County pretty much my entire career. I love the area, love working with the kids and families,” Silva said. “I’m honored that they feel I can contribute.” 

Silva said she looks forward to continuing the progress the board has already made, particularly in the area of academic improvement, a common concern for families, teachers, principals, parents and students alike. 

As a Belen Consolidated Schools parent, Silva saw the notice sent out by the district asking for letters of interest from eligible voters interested in filling the vacancy. 

“I talked to some family members and they said it sounds like I can contribute,” she said.  

When asked if she would run for the seat in two years, Silva said she would hope to contribute for more than two years. 

“I hope by the end of two years I will have learned so much more about how boards and how much more I can contribute,” she said. “I really want to learn from the other board members. They are all very knowledgeable and I’m look forward to working alongside them.” 

The board initially had three candidates to interview during the Friday, Jan. 26, meeting — Silva, Pamela Golliheair and Megan Malcom-Morgan. Golliheair was not at the meeting when it began, and after interviewing Malcom-Morgan and Silva, board president Aubrey Tucker said Golliheair had emailed him directly, asking if she could do the interview via Microsoft Teams. 

He made the decision to not deviate from the in-person interview format to keep all the candidates on “equal footing,” Tucker said. “If we have a deviation for one, we have to offer it for all.” 

In her interview, Silva said during her career, she’s had the opportunity to work with different people across many districts and agencies. 

“I think that has given me the ability to listen, to collaborate with others, which is a very beneficial part of my background and skills,” she said. “I have worked at the middle school, high school, post secondary and preschool levels. The knowledge I have gained learning from parents, kids, teachers and the community, has provided me with life-long learning. Those are skills that allow me to work very well with others in the community.” 

Silva told the board members one of her strongest attributes was her ability to listen to others and take into account the people who have a vested interest in the children of our community. 

“I’m not afraid to ask questions. That is how I learn and how other people learn,” she said. “I believe every student, every human, has the ability to learn. We also have the ability to learn from others.” 

Responding to a request to describe her perceived role as a Belen school board member, Silva said it’s the board’s responsibility to develop policies for the district, as well as hiring the superintendent. 

“We want to make sure schools have what they need to operate and educate children. If there are facility issues, it’s our responsibility to make sure there is funding to make sure the buildings are safe for kids,” she said. “One of our duties and responsibilities is to educate ourselves by going to any training available or required. To meet those needs, we need to make sure taxpayer dollars are used appropriately to educate children.” 

The candidates were asked why the Belen school district exists in the community.  

Silva said it’s purpose was, “to provide a safe learning environment for all children in the district. To help our young people grow and meet their academic and employment goals as they progress through their education with us here in the public schools.” 

Silva has a bachelor’s degree in bilingual education and a master’s degree in Spanish, both from the University of New Mexico. She is a licensed educational diagnostician and has Level III administrative, special education K-12 and general education licenses, as well as her athletic coaching licenses. She has endorsements in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), social studies, science, bilingual, language arts and Spanish. 

Silva’s work history in education stretches back to 1991 and includes time as an instructor at the University of New Mexico, teaching at Mountainair High School, as a senior academic advisor at the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus, as well as several teaching posts with BCS and Los Lunas Schools as a bilingual teacher. Silva has also worked as an individual education plan facilitator, a reading intervention teacher, principal and assistant principal. 

Silva has been a service coordinator with the New Mexico Department of Health’s Los Lunas Community program since 2022. Prior to that, from 2020 to 2022, she was an investigations worker with the Los Lunas Children Youth and Families Department office, and she was the director of special education for Belen Consolidated Schools from 2019 to 2020.  

From 2017 to 2019, Silva was an education diagnostician for BCS and the interim director of special education for the district. She served as assistant principal at BHS from 2013-17 and was the La Promesa Elementary principal from 2010-13. 

Silva will be sworn in at the board’s Feb. 3 meeting. 

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.