The Los Lunas Board of Education is aiming to have a new, permanent superintendent in place by February, according to a tentative time line established by the board at a special meeting on Monday, Oct. 12.
In addition to deciding on a time line, the board members discussed what they would like to see in job requirements for the next superintendent, and where to advertise the position.
Board members David Vickers and Frank Otero felt the process was being rushed, and that the board should wait to hire a new superintendent until July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.
The rest of the board, including board president Brian Smith, Steven Otero and Eloy Giron, disagreed.
“In this particular environment, I don’t believe that there is a best time to open a search for a superintendent,” Smith said. “Based on what we’re dealing with right now, and the openings that are in the state of New Mexico. My thought process is — I want to make sure no one gets a job offer in the state of New Mexico without at least considering the great place we call Los Lunas Schools.
“We can search as long as we want to. We can search as short as we want to, but I want to make sure no one gets a look at anyone without at least looking at Los Lunas as well,” he said.
Vickers said he felt the timing of the meeting was “baffling,” and it would be better served having been an agenda item on the board’s next regular meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 27.
“I think the fact that the meeting was called for this purpose has caused a lot of angst among the staff,” Vickers said. “I don’t think they’re looking for a change in leadership at this point in time.”
Steven Otero said he was pleased the board was discussing it in a special meeting, and was the first to call for hiring a permanent superintendent around the semester break.
“I think that we need to move forward and see what we can do to get a permanent replacement,” Otero said. “Of course Walter Gibson is acting superintendent, and I think the time line is presentable right now if we could get one mid-semester I think that would be a step forward.
“I think a lot of our staff and community is wondering what we are doing about getting a permanent replacement.”
Vickers maintained his stance against making a change at this point, arguing that Gibson had obtained a buy-in from the staff, and advocated again for making the start date for the position July 1, 2021, which would keep Gibson on as acting superintendent through the end of the school year.
“I concur with Mr. Vickers,” Frank Otero said. “To me, if you want people to be comfortable and stable, changing the superintendent in January, to me, would be foolish.”
Giron was in favor of making a change, in part over his concerns relating to what he said was the high failure rate the district has seen the first semester in remote learning. He said he would like to see a permanent superintendent in place so they can begin to assess their performance in the second semester.
The advertisement for the position was written by Gibson, and will be posted to receive applications through Tuesday, Dec. 1.
The board is aiming to review applications at a special executive session set for Tuesday, Dec. 8. The board will then decide on a shortlist, with interviews to follow in the coming weeks.
Smith said he would prefer the board to have interviews done before winter break begins on Dec. 18.
In order to fit in the community input, Smith suggested a meeting either between interviews and before winter break, or after the board reconvenes on Jan. 5 but before the regularly scheduled Jan. 19 meeting.
In the event meetings are still virtual at that time, the suggestion was to have the community and staff submit questions, which the board would then select from and put to the candidates as part of their interview.
“The reason I want to do it that way instead of doing a call in or a Zoom, and I want them involved,” Smith said. “Don’t get me wrong, because it’s very important that every candidate gets the same question with no elaborations,” Smith said. “We should have the situation down pat. If we are able to bring staff members in because the situation warrants that, then yes, we can bring them in and they can ask the exact same questions.”
In the event that no satisfactory candidate presents themselves during this window, the board left open the possibility of reposting the position at the end of the semester.