LOS LUNAS—The Los Lunas School Board of Education held a special meeting Monday evening via Zoom and YouTube live stream to appoint an acting superintendent while Superintendent Dana Sanders is 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 School Board 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.
Smith said the board discussed numerous options for the position.
“Based off the fact that we haven’t approved our organizational chart yet, based off the fact that we’re cutting our deadline to next year’s budget extremely close right now, and our current staff is already working so hard based on this unprecedented situation to keep themselves, the community and the students safe, I didn’t see the need to risk overloading the current personnel or our progress,” Smith said.
He said the board wanted to find an individual who had experience dealing with budget preparations.
“With the information that the board had, I felt that we made the best possible decision for this district and the kids and the community. There’s a lot of unknowns, so this seemed like the logical place to go,” Smith said.
Gibson served as superintendent of Los Lunas Schools from 2005 to 2009. He announced his resignation in a letter addressed to then board president Ed Hernandez.
After announcing his resignation, he was put on administrative leave for the duration of his contract. The Los Lunas Board of Education announced deputy superintendent at the time Bernard Saiz as interim superintendent, who was later hired for the position.
Gibson had been fully retired for a year when he got the call about filling the temporary position. His first day back was Tuesday, which he called a “catching-up day.”
“Now is not a good time to be without a superintendent, so they asked me if I would step in, realizing there would be a lot of new circumstances with COVID-19 and social distancing,” Gibson said Tuesday. “It was a bit surreal to walk back into your old office and sit down in these circumstances, but I was a superintendent for 20 years. I’ll try to hit the ground running and do what I can do to keep things going.”
He said there were a lot of good systems in place already, and will make it his job to make sure things keep running smoothly under unique circumstances.
Smith is optimistic about the board’s choice of acting superintendent.
“He’s a great man, he did really good things while he was here,” Smith said. “We felt it was very important to have someone who was familiar with the district, and he’s familiar with a great deal of employees in the district. I think he’s going to do a terrific job for the time frame that he will be here.”
Sanders 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.
Last week, Assistant Superintendent Juliette Romero Benavidez announced she retired from her position after 27 years in education, 17 of which were spent at Los Lunas Schools.
“With our whole world being on lock down, it gave me more time to reflect on what’s important,” Benavidez said. “Not that my career isn’t important but all these years I’ve been an administrator, I’ve focused on my school or school district or staff and I thought, now it’s time to focus on my family.”
She said she loved her job as assistant superintendent but was given more time to think about leaving to spend time with her family due to the state mandated work rules.
“I had kind of planned last year that when my son, Kade, would graduate from Los Lunas High and my daughter from NMSU, that I would kind of graduate, too. It’ll be really fantastic spending time with my kids and husband more.”