BELEN—A Belen Board of Education member has stepped down in order to abide by New Mexico statute and the district’s own board policy.

As of Friday, May 14, board president Lisa Chavez is no longer a member of the board. In her letter of resignation to Belen Consolidated Schools Superintendent Lawrence Sanchez, the former board president writes that because her son-in-law is an applicant for a teaching position with BCS, to not violate state law in regards to nepotism in public schools and the board’s conflict of interest policy, she is leaving her board position.

Elizabeth “Lisa” Chavez
Resigned from Belen Board of Education

“I love serving on the board but I didn’t really have a choice; there are really no options,” Chavez said in an interview with the News-Bulletin last Friday. “I will miss serving. Public education has always been a passion for me, and I will continue to advocate on behalf of our schools. Educators have the power to transform lives and the best way to improve the lives of all children is through a quality public education.”

State law says a superintendent shall not initially employ or approve the initial employment in any capacity of a person related to a school board member in a variety of ways, including a son-in-law.

The board’s own conflict-of-interest and nepotism policy uses the same language.

The District 5 seat is up for reelection this November and, according to state statute, the person appointed to the seat shall hold that office until the next regular school district election when an election shall be held to fill the vacancy for the unexpired term.

The district has 45 days from the date of the vacancy to fill the seat or else the state Secretary of Education fills the vacancy.

Registered voters living in District 5 who are interested in serving on the board should submit a letter of interest, along with a copy of their current voter information card to the district. The card will be used to confirm interested applicants are qualified electors and live in the district.

To get a card free of charge, visit the Valencia County Clerk’s office, 444 Luna Ave., Los Lunas.

A letter of interest and confirmation of eligibility for the appointment must be submitted by noon, Friday, June 4, either via email to [email protected] or hand delivered to the district central office care of Aubrey Tucker, board president, 520 N. Main St., Belen.

The board will hold a special meeting on Wednesday, June 9, to interview final candidates and make a selection for Chavez’ replacement. The appointee will be sworn in at the board’s regular June 22 meeting.

The southern most part of District 5 begins in northern Belen, in the area of Impala Drive and Barboa Road. It stretches north through Los Chavez to Juan P. Sanchez Road, west, crossing Interstate 25 and east to the river.

At a workshop Tuesday morning to establish the appointment process and time line, Chavez’ fellow board members praised her knowledge of education and commitment to BCS students and the community.

“She served with dignity, poise and grace; her advocacy for children was unwavering,” said Tucker, the new board president. “I often called her the conscious of the board because she had a unique way of making us aware of how teachers and the community felt. I want to thank her for her dedication to the schools, students and community.”

Board member Larry Lindberg said Chavez always asked in-depth questions, that provoked thought among the board members.

During her time in office, Chavez said the board, as a whole, made academic performance a priority, as well as improving student outcomes.

“We also worked hard to address social emotional needs, to bring in more resources. I feel like in the last four years, we have really brought that to the forefront,” she said. “We really focused on continuous improvement.”

Stabilizing the budget and seeing a reduction in audit findings from 19 to seven were also accomplishments of the board, Chavez said.

“We’re not where we want to be but we’ve made great improvement,” she said.

Chavez said the board has worked diligently to support and listen to employees, addressing needs to retain quality employees. It also worked to make progress in using technology in the district, she said.

“Belen Schools are behind and we had to have honest, open discussions about what had to be done,” the former president said. “Kids need access to computers all the time. Technology should be part of the curriculum and a focus; that’s happening and it needs to continue.”

Chavez said the board also focused on strengthening the district’s curriculum, as well as enhancing programs such as career and technical education and STEM offerings.

“One of the most important things this board did was to honestly discuss not only what Belen (Consolidated) Schools does well, but more importantly what needs to be improved. Every decision that a board makes must be made on behalf of students and we have done that,” Chavez said. “I am grateful and thankful for the opportunity to work with my fellow board members and I will miss them.

“This board has a great deal of knowledge and expertise. Mr. (Max) Cordova understands facilities and maintenance. Mr. (Larry) Lindberg brings years of experience related to safety, audit and budget issues. Mr. (Jim) Danner and Mr. (Aubrey) Tucker are natural leaders, former teachers and administrators who have years of dedicated service to students, families and school employees.”

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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.