A familiar face will be leading Belen Consolidated Schools while the board of education conducts its search for a new superintendent.

At the board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 12, Diane Vallejos, the BCS assistant superintendent in charge of academics since 2016, was unanimously appointed as interim superintendent.

Diane Vallejos

“I do feel honored to be selected as interim,” Vallejos said. “My job is to keep the district progressing forward. I look forward to providing the very best education possible for the students of this wonderful district, and supporting their academic progress.”

When the superintendent’s position was open in 2015, Vallejos applied and was one of the top three finalists. She said she is considering applying again.

A Belen High School graduate, Vallejos was appointed to the interim position starting on Friday, Feb. 15, the same time as former superintendent Max Perez’ resignation became official.

Perez, who was hired in 2015, announced earlier this month he was leaving BCS to take the superintendent’s position in the Grants/Cibola County School District.

Vallejos was the district director of special education from 2010 to 2015, before being named executive director of academics until 2016.

She also served as principal of La Promesa Elementary from 2005-10, was the program specialist for the special education department from 2003-05, and the IEP facilitator and a special education teacher at H.T. Jaramillo and Dennis Chavez elementary schools from 2000-03.

Vallejos has a bachelor of arts degree in elementary education from New Mexico Highlands University and a master’s degree in special education from the University of New Mexico.

During a workshop last Friday, board members discussed how they wanted to move forward with a search for a new superintendent, including where to advertise, the interview process and qualifications.

Saying he would support the majority of the board, vice president Jim Danner said they might want to limit advertising to New Mexico.

“I’m concerned someone from out of state might not know our system,” Danner said.

Larry Lindberg said when the position was open nearly four years ago, the district received close to 30 applications, many from neighboring states, such as Colorado and Texas.

Board secretary Lisa Chavez agreed that casting a wider net would be better.

“That demonstrates to the community we want to get the very best person,” Chavez said.

Yvonne McCloud said there could be cost savings by only advertising within the state, noting that administrators seeking a new position will make the effort to look at industry-specific websites and other online job listings.

Chavez agreed, saying that showed initiative.

“I just want to make sure we don’t limit ourselves,” Chavez said.

Lindberg said when the position was advertised, in his opinion, one requirement should be that the superintendent live in the district.

“I don’t care if it’s down in Veguita or up in Los Chavez. My opinion is if we’re paying this much money, the super should live in the district,” Lindberg said.

He continued, saying that Perez did live in the district and regularly attended school events, as well as was involved in several local organizations.

Perez was paid $120,000 a year at the time of his resignation, which ranks the district 24th out of 89 districts in the state in terms of salary, Lindberg said.

If all goes according to plan, the district will begin advertising the position after its Feb. 26 board meeting.

Applications are due back by Friday, March 15, and must be postmarked by that date to be considered.

On April 3, applications will undergo a screening by a 10-person committee consisting of two district students, two parents, two certified employees, two classified employees and one representative from each of the district unions.

That committee will recommend finalists by April 9 and schedule individual interviews with the top contenders, depending on how many applicants there are total.

During the week of April 15, finalists will undergo a second one-on-one interview with the board, and a new superintendent could be selected at the April 23 board of education meeting.

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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.