LOS LUNAS — The search for a new superintendent to lead Los Lunas Schools is underway and on a tight timeline.

LLS officially opened the position June 9 and the Los Lunas Board of Education is aiming to have a new superintendent ready to hit the ground running by Aug. 1.

The decision on when to open up the search process was met with mixed feelings across the board.

Debating when to begin

At the April 18 meeting, board member Bryan Smith was eager to start the search as soon as possible, but board members Eloy Giron, David Vickers and Bruce Bennett expressed they didn’t feel like there was a rush to begin. Board President Tina Garcia was on the fence.

Garcia noted the best time to post job openings for a superintendent was in the summer because that is when most candidates begin looking for openings.

LLS’ legal counsel Roxie De Santiago said delaying until summer is over isn’t advised because the prime candidates are then taken.

“I think we need to get the search started sooner rather than later. We’ve seen four different superintendents in four years and I think we need some stability in this district,” said Smith.

Vickers expressed interest in seeing how Interim Superintendent Dr. Deborah Elder would carry out her proposed 100 day plan for the district.

“When Elder took over, she gave us a very rigorous plan for what she would like to do for the district, which goes into the fall,” Vickers said. “I, for one, don’t want to jeopardize that plan.”

Giron and Bennett agreed, saying they would like to see how her 100-day plan goes. Bennett further suggested waiting until next summer to open the superintendent position because he’d like to see the fruits of her labor.

“I’m excited to see what Elder has left to do,” Garcia said. “I know she set a high bar, all of which I’m thankful for, but I don’t think us deciding to start the process is going to hinder that.”

Smith made a motion for the board president to contact the New Mexico School Board Association’s superintendent search committee and open up the position within the next two weeks.

To this, Vickers reiterated that he did not want to rush the process.

“I think the way we hired Dr. (Arsenio) Romero was rushed,” he said. “We didn’t have sufficient public comment, vetting of candidates … that’s not to say it was a mistake, but it was rushed.”

Smith responded, saying he thinks it’s incredibly unfair to Elder to keep her interim into the school year.

“I don’t see why waiting is needed. We should discuss, but in fairness to her, this district and all the people looking for superintendent jobs, I think we should open this position,” said Smith. “If you want to see how it’s going to go, then offer her a contract, but to keep somebody and use them until we decide we want to open up the position is just wrong.”

Garcia said she understands where Vickers is coming from, but she doesn’t believe starting the process now is going to require the board to act hastily.

“It’s just starting the process. I agree that I believe it’s unfair to Dr. Elder. I think if we’re going to give her the contract, then give it to her,” Garcia said. “In which case that may be the conversation we need to have. But I don’t think it’s fair to leave her as interim for an undisclosed amount of time.

“We need to begin the process. We don’t have to finish or select, but we have to start somewhere.”

After voting, Smith’s motion to open the superintendent position within two weeks failed with Giron, Vickers and Bennett voting no and Garcia and Smith voting yes.

Giron then suggested dedicating the first four hours of the May 31 board retreat to discuss a path forward. Giron made a motion to do so, which all members voted in favor of except Smith.

“To me this makes no sense,” said Smith.

Beginning the search

At the May 23 board meeting, Smith again requested discussion and possible action to be taken regarding opening up the search. He put a motion forth to open the superintendent position and for the board president to get in touch with the NMSBA to have a representative present at the retreat to go over the particulars with the board.

The motion was approved on a 3-2 vote, with Garcia, Giron and Smith voting yes, while Vickers and Bennett voted no.

The search process

At the June 6 meeting, superintendent search consultants Dr. Linda Paul and Bobbie Gutierrez, with Paul and Associates, led a presentation detailing the process they were proposing for the “very compressed and accelerated search”.

The consultants worked with the board to determine the best route for community engagement, advertising, application screening, interviewing and more based on what direction the board wanted to take.

The board liked the idea of having an advisory committee, one made up of staff and one of community members to help interview the finalists. Paul said everyone in the advisory committee would be trained on how to do this.

The board also agreed that they would like to have an open house for parents and members of the community to meet the finalists. This date and time is yet to be determined.

However, when it came to the qualifications for the superintendent position, a couple of board members didn’t see eye to eye. Vickers proposed they forgo principal experience as a requirement to allow flexibility.

“We can have someone with a lot of teaching and central office experience, who has experience in supervising teachers. I don’t want to throw someone else because they don’t quite fit the template exactly,” said Vickers.

This did not sit well with Giron, as he said it conflicted with what was discussed at the board retreat.

Paul said moving it from a required to preferred is maybe not the best practice because having insight to what principals are facing is critical for a superintendent.

“The (presenters) make valid points about what experience is necessary to run a school district,” said Smith. “I think we need to include principal experience in the minimum requirements. If we’re going to pick the best person to lead this school district, we need to stick with what we talked about.”

The application deadline for the superintendent position closes July 7. Garcia said the board hopes to announce the new superintendent at the July 25 board meeting.

As for Elder, she applied for the superintendent position for Las Cruces Public Schools, and is currently among the finalists. According to LCPS’ website, the superintendent for that district will be announced around the beginning of July.

According to the Los Lunas Schools website:

  • The new superintendent begins work Aug. 1, 2023 or as soon as possible after selection.
  • Salary: $160,000-$180,000

Minimum requirements:

  • Master’s degree from an accredited institution and a valid New Mexico administrative license or eligibility for a New Mexico administrative license.
  • Three to five years of teaching experience.
  • Three to five years of leadership experience as a principal.
  • Central office or district experience preferred.
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Felina Martinez was born and raised in Valencia County. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2021. During her time at UNM, she studied interdisciplinary film, digital media and journalism. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, the School of Dreams Academy and the town of Peralta.