Dana Sanders
Los Lunas superintendent

LOS LUNAS—Los Lunas Schools Superintendent Dana Sanders has been placed on paid administrative leave until the Los Lunas Schools Board of Education changes her work status.

The board of education held a special meeting Monday, April 6, via Zoom and YouTube live-stream to appoint an acting superintendent while Sanders was on medical leave.

“We are providing an acting superintendent to come in and fill the position until it is deemed necessary that Mrs. Sanders is deemed fit for duty to return back to her position,” said Los Lunas Board of Education President Bryan Smith during the meeting. “Mrs. Sanders is not on administrative leave.”

The board unanimously voted to appoint former Los Lunas Schools superintendent Walter Gibson to the temporary position. Gibson served as superintendent of Los Lunas Schools from 2005 to 2009 and had been fully retired for a year when he got the call about filling the temporary position.

Sanders, at the time, said she didn’t plan to be gone for too long from her position.

“I’m on a very temporary medical leave by my choice,” Sanders said.

During another special meeting held on April 16, the board voted to put Sanders on paid administrative leave.

Board members approved the motion for Smith to obtain additional documentation on the leave status of the superintendent and put her on administrative leave with pay so she will not have to use her personal leave at this time, said board member Steven Otero during the meeting.

“My doctor released me to work on the 17th, so because they wanted more documentation it now becomes the responsibility of the district to pay for the leave,” Sanders said.

During the regular meeting on April 21, the board members voted to extend the superintendent’s administrative leave with pay until changed by the board in the future.

Sanders said she understands being put on administrative leave to get clarification, but said the board members have already received clarification.

“I’ve been given no real explanation as to what has happened that would cause that,” Sanders said. “It’s frustrating because we have a district to run and kids to take care of.

“I think having been cleared on the 17th of April, and here it is nearly the end of April, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

During that same meeting, the board approved the retention and hiring of REDW Accounting Firm for a financial investigation. The action item was tabled during the March 16 special meeting.

“The reason the board considered a financial investigator was to remove the board from dealing directly with the administration,” Smith said in an email on Tuesday. “We do not have a list of specific concerns at this time as we just approved the investigation last board meeting. The board is working to be good stewards of the taxpayer money.”

The Los Lunas Board of Education will once again meet, via Zoom, in executive session at 5 p.m., Thursday, April 30, to discuss limited personnel matters. According to the agenda, the board will discuss the evaluation and continued employment of the superintendent. No action is scheduled to take place at this meeting.

Sanders was hired as the superintendent of Los Lunas Schools in February 2015, and has served as assistant superintendent, director of personnel, principal and assistant principal at Los Lunas Middle School, assistant principal and teacher at Daniel Fernandez Intermediate, and taught at Tome Elementary, Ann Parish Elementary, Gil Sanchez Elementary in Belen, and Los Padillas Elementary in Albuquerque.

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Anna Padilla, News-Bulletin Staff Writer