LOS LUNAS — After more than six months in flux, the Los Lunas Schools will return to be a sanctioned board of education.
Following the 2021 November general elections, two candidates were elected to serve on the Los Lunas Schools Board of Education, prompting the move away from a governing council.
P. David Vickers, one of the previously-suspended board members serving District 3, and Bruce Bennett, the Los Lunas Schools Governing Council Member in District 5, were elected.
Los Lunas Schools Superintendent Arsenio Romero said from his talks with New Mexico Education Department Secretary Kurt Steinhaus, he is ready to turn “local power back to the community.”
If the board continued operating as a governing committee, technically they would still be under the purview of the secretary.
“What we have now is a governing committee and really the way that works is, the control is under (Steinhaus) and he is giving authority to the governing committee to make those local decisions, but he wants to give back over to a school board,” Romero said last week.
The newly sworn-in board of education, who took their positions officially on Jan. 4, include Steinhaus’ appointment Sonya C’Moya, representing District 2, so they could have a quorum — the number of people in the governing body needed to vote on decisions.
“(Steinhaus) decided to go with Sonya because she’s — I’m kind of speaking for him but through some conversations — she’s got experience as a board member,” Romero said.
Shortly following C’Moya, Bennett and Vickers being sworn onto the board, Vickers made a motion to appoint Tina Garcia and Ragon Espinoza to Districts 1 and 4, respectively.
Garcia and Espinoza have represented those districts for the past few months on the governing committee.
“Both of these people have already applied for this position in competition with other people. They were vetted and interviewed by the state secretary at that time and they were chosen,” Vickers said after moving to appoint. “… It would simply make sense to have them continue in these positions until the end of the term, which will be 2023.”
The appointments were approved unanimously.
“Both Ragon and Tina bring a great input to the district,” Bennett said. “They are great leaders in the community and it will be a great asset to have them on the board.”
Former New Mexico Public Education Department secretary Ryan Stewart appointed C’Moya to the committee following the indefinite suspension of the five elected board members in May of last year. After an application process, the four other committee members — Bennett, Espinoza, Jessie Lewis and Garcia — were appointed in June.
The previous school board’s suspension was made permanent by Steinhaus in August after he reviewed findings of fact collected through a late summer public hearing, determining members “were interfering with the education process.”
NMPED determined, since their swearing-in in January 2020, certain board members’ actions were “inconsistent with the Governmental Conduct Act, potentially portions of the Criminal Code, the Procurement Code, school district procurement policies and other board policies, and the Public School Code.”
Espinoza and Garcia, the newly-appointed board members, will be sworn in at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 18.
Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history.