BELEN — The Belen Board of Education selected the next superintendent for Belen Consolidated Schools Tuesday evening.
Lawrence Sanchez, who was appointed acting superintendent in November and has been with the district since 1996, will be the top administrator.
Sanchez was one of 10 applicants vying for the job. The selection committee narrowed the field to five before the board unanimously selected Sanchez on a 3-0 vote.
Max Cordova and Larry Lindberg were not at Tuesday’s meeting. Cordova is the uncle of one of the applicants and recused himself from the entire process, including the vote.
Board member Jim Danner nominated Sanchez for the position, with a second from Aubrey Tucker. The two and board president Lisa Chavez voted yes on the nomination.
“Now the real work starts,” Sanchez said in a phone interview following the meeting. “I feel blessed that they have the confidence in me, blessed to work with the people I do. You don’t get to a place like this without good people around you.”
Sanchez, of Peralta, 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.
He started his teaching career at the middle school in 1996, teaching language arts, desktop publishing and web design, as well as serving on the school leadership team, coordinating the update of the BMS site improvement plan and designing and conducting faculty training workshops in various computer programs.
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.
The board members thanked the committee members for their diligent work during the selection process.
“This was a difficult decision because of the quality of applicants,” Danner said. “I think the most important thing for the board and new superintendent is to remember is we have only one purpose, and that is to make Belen education the best it can be.”
Tucker also noted there was a high level of expertise to chose from, saying the finalists were all extremely competent and diligent and purposeful in what they wanted to do.
“It was a difficult but enjoyable task,” Tucker said. “I am pleased in which way we want to go. I have a feeling we will go in a direction that will move the district forward. It’s going to be rough but understand we’re in this together.”
Chavez congratulated Sanchez, saying he was the leader the district needs in this unprecedented time.
“The job is not easy in typical times. Mr. Sanchez embodies the honesty and integrity needed,” Chavez said. “He’s not afraid to make the difficult decisions but he also listens and collaborates and brings people together. I look forward to working with you.”
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.
The other four finalists interviewed for the position were Rebecca Benedict, Sonia Lawson, E. Renee Sanchez and Dr. Steven Saldivar.