BELEN—After nearly four years as the top administrator for Belen Consolidated Schools, Superintendent Max Perez has decided to pursue another opportunity.
Last week, the Grants/Cibola County Board of Education named Perez as the district’s new superintendent. Perez called the move an “amicable separation” from BCS.
“I informed the board I would not be returning for the 2019-20 school year. I made the decision to explore other options and let the board know I would be applying for other positions,” Perez said. “There’s been a differing in philosophy as to how to move the district forward, so this seemed like a good time. We’re parting on good terms.”
The superintendent said his exact departure date is unknown as of now, but would be negotiated with both boards.
The Grants/Cibola County School District is similar in size and student population to BCS, with seven elementary schools, one stand-alone middle school, Laguna-Acoma Junior/Senior High and Grants High School.
Perez said he is looking forward to continuing his career in education and serving as the superintendent to the Grants/Cibola district.
“I’m way too young to retire. I truly enjoy the role of superintendent,” he said. “I wanted to make sure Belen was in a good place, that this transition happens without impacting any of our students, schools or the community. I want to make sure this is done smoothly.”
Belen Board of Education President Max Cordova said Perez has done a good job for the district and worked well with the board.
“When he was hired, I was one of the ‘no’ votes,” Cordova said. “I said then I would work hard with the new superintendent, whoever it was. I believe we really worked well together and I have no regrets hiring him.”
Perez was hired to lead Belen Consolidated Schools in July 2015 on a 3-2 vote of the board.
Cordova said he looks forward to working just as hard with the district’s next superintendent, as well as the state’s new education administration.
“I’m very optimistic we will keep going in the right direction,” he said.
Getting the district’s finances in order was one major accomplishment Cordova credited Perez with.
“He saw we were not in good shape, and one of the first things he was able to do was cut administrative costs, which gave us a little bit of breathing room,” Cordova said. “Academics has been his top priority, and he tried his best to bring in programing to that end, especially professional development for our teachers, principals and staff as a whole.”
Before coming to BCS, Perez was the principal at Tse Bit Ai Middle School in Shiprock. Prior to that, he was the assistant superintendent for learning services for Gallup McKinley County Schools from 2009 to 2013, the director of professional development and mentoring of regional quality from 2006 to 2009, adjunct faculty at Western New Mexico University from 2005 to 2008 teaching curriculum and instruction, and educational leadership and the principal at Washington Elementary with Gallup Schools from 2001 to 2006.
Perez acknowledges he spent many sleepless nights due to the budget.
“I’ve worked hard to get the district in a clean and stable financial place after about a decade of issues. One of the first things I was able to do was reorganize and save $300,000 a year in recurring administrative costs,” he said.
Some of the accomplishments Perez is proud of include improving the district’s truancy rate and receiving state recognition for its programs, improvements to the safety and security of all school sites in the district, building a unique learning system based on student work that can be used in almost any kind of assessment, having schools ranked in the Top 10 in the state, recognition of outstanding teachers, relationships built city and county officials, state legislators and the state public education department and the relationships he’s built with parents, students and employees.
“As I said when I first started, and continue to proclaim, Belen has some of the best teachers in New Mexico, and we definitely have the best students in the state,” Perez said. “I’m going to miss the people most. I’ll miss that many of them know me by name. I’ll miss working with the students who were having trouble, maybe almost given up. But they found a place in the district and, with their head held high, walked across the stage to receive their diploma.
“I’d like to think I had a part in making things better.”
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.