BELEN—The Belen Board of Education has narrowed down the pool of 10 applicants vying for the superintendent position to five, who will go on to the first round of interviews.
Rebecca Benedict, Sonia Lawson, E. Renee Sanchez, Lawrence Sanchez and Dr. Steven Saldivar will be interviewed by board members and an interview committee on Thursday, Dec. 3.
The board will meet the next day to select the candidates for the final interviews on Monday, Dec. 7. The board will hold its regular meeting on Dec. 8, and will consider appointing the next superintendent.
In October, Superintendent Diane Vallejos told the board she planned to retire at the end of the school year, in 2021, due to upcoming changes in the public educators retiree health plan.
Vallejos received board approval to use her accumulated leave — 150-plus days — which means she will be on vacation for the remainder of her contract.
Belen High School Principal Lawrence Sanchez was appointed acting superintendent in early November.
Rebecca Benedict, of Shiprock, is a high school principal with Central Consolidated School District in Shiprock. She was a principal at Kirtland Central High School in Kirtland, N.M., from 2013 to 2020.
She has a doctorate in educational administration from Texas A&M University, and a master’s degree in international education from Framingham College.
Sonia Lawson, of Belen, is a middle school principal with Socorro Consolidated Schools. She was the assistant superintendent of academic services at Roswell Independent School District from 2017 to 2020.
Prior to that, she was the high school administrator for the Fort Worth Independent School District from 2015 to 2017, and the director of exceptional programs for Bernalillo Public Schools.
Lawson has a master of arts degree in educational leadership from The University of New Mexico and a bachelor of arts degree in English from University of Texas at Arlington.
E. Renee Sanchez, of Belen, is the director of academic services for the Grants/Cibola County Schools, and a consultant with Leadership Improvement LLC. Previously, Sanchez was the principal at Gil Sanchez Elementary in Jarales from 2014 to 2019.
She has a master’s degree in education leadership with an emphasis in administration and instruction from The University of New Mexico.
Sanchez is the niece of board of education member Max Cordova, In a written statement, Cordova said although he greatly values his position on the board and understands the importance of participating in the decision-making process, because he is related to one of the applicants he feels the most ethical thing to do is recuse himself from the process at this time. He did not participate in the initial review and scoring of the applicants on Tuesday, and won’t be part of the upcoming interviews.
Lawrence Sanchez, of Peralta, is the current acting superintendent for BCS. He has been the principal at Belen High School since 2019. Prior to that, he was the principal at Belen Middle School from 2016 to 2019, and served as an assistant principal at BHS from 2015 to 2016,
Sanchez has a master’s degree from The University of New Mexico in education leadership and a master’s degree in education administration from Grand Canyon University.
Steven Saldivar, of Anthony, Texas, is a behavior specialist/special education teacher with Alamogordo Public Schools. He retired as superintendent of the Anthony (Texas) Independent School District in 2019 after six years in the position. Saldivar served as the liaison to the incoming superintendent for the Anthony ISD for six months after his retirement.
Saldivar has a doctorate in educational leadership from Texas Tech University and a masters of education from University of Houston-Victoria.
Other applicants for the position were, Curtis M. Clough, associate superintendent with Silver Consolidated School District, in Silver City; Randall K. Earwood, a middle school science instructor at China Spring (Texas) Independent School District; Gregory R. van Goidtsnoven, the bilingual principal at Raffles American School, Malaysia; Leigh Ann McCray the chief executive officer/independent consultant for EdBusiness Solutions Incorporated in Uhrichsville, Ohio; and Tom Graves, a counselor at Haywood Schools in North Carolina.