In a divided vote, the Las Vegas City Schools board tapped the superintendent of the Questa school district to take that position here.
Richard Romero beat four other finalists for the position, including Associate Superintendent Barbara Perea Casey, who criticized the school board for its decision. After making the decision, a couple of board members exchanged angry words.
Romero will replace Superintendent Pete Campos, who is becoming Luna Community College’s president on July 1. The board has yet to decide on a salary for Romero.
Besides Casey, the other finalists were David Briseo, the federal programs director for the Clovis schools; Garrett Bosarge, the principal of Los Alamos Middle School; and Robert Archuleta, superintendent of the Mesa Vista schools.
The board publicly interviewed all five candidates last week, and on Monday, members held their second closed session to discuss the finalists. After about a half hour, they went into open session.
Board President Patrick Romero handed the gavel to Vice President Ramon “Swoops” Montao, so the president could make a motion for Casey. But no one would second his motion.
Board member Phillip Vigil then made a motion for Richard Romero, with Philip Leger seconding that motion. Board member Elaine Luna joined them.
Montao said he had concerns about Richard Romero, instead saying he preferred Briseo of Clovis.
But he said he would meet with Richard Romero and discuss those concerns.
“I will give him the benefit of the doubt,” Montao said.
Luna said the board had undertaken a long, inclusive process in selecting a superintendent. She said she was impressed with Richard Romero’s responses and his compatibility with the board during the interview, adding that the district had five “excellent” finalists.
She said he also knew things about the district that even the board members didn’t know.
Patrick Romero told the board that Casey had 30 letters of support from residents, staff members and administrators. He called her hard-working and principled.
Vigil interrupted and said everyone knew about Casey’s resum.
“You’re out of order,” the board president said, adding that he doubted his colleague, Vigil, had even read the letters.
Vigil asked for the board to vote to adjourn. Patrick Romero made a couple of other comments, and the board ended its meeting.
In a telephone interview Monday night, Richard Romero praised the district’s performance.
“They have had such good stable leadership. You look at the test scores, and they’ve done very well. My responsibility is to keep the good things going and look at the other areas where we aren’t having the kinds of successes the community, faculty and staff think we should,” he said.
He said July 1 is a “very realistic” date for him to start.
Richard Romero has been in public education for more than two decades. During his first years, he worked as a teacher and coach in El Paso, Albuquerque and Santa Fe. He has been the assistant principal of La Cueva High School in Albuquerque and the principal of Moriarty High School and Hatch Valley High School.
From 2001 to 2004, he was the bilingual director in Hatch. He’s held two superintendent positions — Lordsburg (2004-05) and Questa (2005 to the present).
He has his master’s degree in education leadership from the University of New Mexico and is working on his doctorate.
Casey, who has a educational doctorate and has been the superintendent of the West Las Vegas and Hondo Valley school districts, said she was upset with the board.
“If they selected someone who was far more qualified with more education and experience, that would be a different story,” said Casey, who first became a superintendent in 1996. “They selected someone who doesn’t have the experience, the education or the knowledge of the district that I have.”
Casey, who is the district’s second-in-command, noted that the board said it wanted the public’s input in the hiring process, which she called misleading. “It was a dog- and-pony show,” she said.
Casey, who didn’t attend the board meeting, declined to comment when asked about her plans with the district.
“Las Vegas is the only place where I have lived where expertise and credentials mean nothing,” she said.