LOS LUNAS — The School of Dreams Academy Governing Council welcomed three new members after four of the five members resigned in the past couple months, citing time commitments and other obligations.

“That’s why this is so historic; we’ve never sworn in this many governing council members at one time,” SODA Superintendent Mike Ogas said during Monday’s special meeting, shortly before they accepted the two most recent resignations.

Council president Kathy Chavez attended her last meeting in August, while Kenny Griego attended his in July. Both had been working with the school since it first welcomed students in 2009.

During Monday’s regular council meeting, Ralph Mims, who had served on the council since last year, and Dr. David Schnieder, who served for the past eight years, submitted their resignations to the council.

“It seems like there are a number of us leaving at the same time, and that’s true, but it’s not in any way, shape or form have anything to do with the school,” Schnieder said. “The school, the leadership that we have and the putting the students first always has been the focus and remains the focus.”

Both cited time commitments, with Schneider working more hours at his medical practice in Albuquerque, and Mims working as an economic development consultant in Rio Communities.

Mims said he also has economic development projects in Jamaica as well as Antigua and Barbuda, causing him to make many trips to the Caribbean.

Catherine Smith is the only remaining member of the previous council to continue to hold her seat.


New governing council members

Summer Ludwig, Pamela Skinner and David Watling answered the call to be on the governing council, being sworn into service during Monday’s meeting.

Ludwig works as the children’s librarian at Belen’s Public Library, and has a son who attends SODA as a junior. She said her son has autism, so finding a school that worked well for him had been difficult until they found SODA about three years ago.

Summer Ludwig

“It’s the first place where he’s really excelled and really enjoys school, so when I saw they needed somebody (I applied),” Ludwig said. “He only has two more years left, but I just wanted to make sure, it’s just a way for me to give back and make sure other kids and families have the same opportunities that he was able to have.”

In addition to now serving on the SODA Governing Council, Ludwig also serves as the treasurer for the Democratic Party of Valencia County as well as on the board for the Valencia County Federation of Democratic Women. She also sits on the Technology Infrastructure Fee Ordinance board for the city of Belen as the treasurer.

Pamela Skinner, who currently works as the coordinator for the Valencia County Community Wellness Council said she found out about the open spot on the council through word of mouth since she has a niece with two children attending the charter school. She also had several other members of her family who attended the school in the past.

Pamela Skinner

“I believe in the school and what it stands for,” Skinner said. “I remember when they first opened the school.”

While on the council, Skinner said she hopes to see the school grow to create more opportunities for children who don’t fit into the exact mold created by the traditional public school system.

“I think the connections I have within the community will be helpful,” she said. “I hope to see this school grow. I think it’s viable to the community and I think we need more of them … or make it bigger. Our children need a place to go. Not everyone is a conventional student and not everyone can do what the public schools ask for.”

David Watling said his son, 2-year-old, Deegan, is a future SODA student, so he wants to get involved now to create a good learning environment for him in the future.

David Watling

Watling’s wife, Shannon, teaches agriculture and engineering at the charter school.

Watling served in the military from 2007 to 2013, ending his U.S. Army career as a sergeant, and currently works as an air traffic controller in Albuquerque.

“I’ve had a lot of time, especially in the military working with expenditure, budgets, accountability of equipment,” Watling said. “I think bringing that discipline from the military, that oversight will help.”

SODA Superintendent Mike Ogas said the school will host a lengthy work session to bring the new council members up to speed on the history of the school at 6 p.m., Monday, Sept. 19, at the academy.

One of the first orders of business will also be to renew the council’s Open Meetings Act resolution, changing the time and day of the month for regular meetings.

“I think they are going to bring new perspectives and great ideas,” Ogas said about the new council members. “They all love the school so I think they are going to bring additional passion. It’s going to be a nice time.”

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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.