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District outlines search for leader

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By Don Pace

The Las Vegas City Schools board on Monday set the parameters for picking a new superintendent who would replace Pete Campos, who was hired to become Luna Community College’s next president.

Board President Elaine Luna said it’s essential to start the process in a timely manner “because before we know it, the time will be here and we’ll have to make that transition.”

She said Campos would be an active participant during the planning process.

After her opening remarks, Luna turned to fellow board members for their thoughts on the search process.

Holding up a copy of Monday’s Optic, board member Patrick Romero said he disagreed with the editorial calling for a national search. He cited Albuquerque Public Schools as an example of what the board should not do. He said board members spent a lot of money for a national search, then doubled the salary of the superintendent and then sweetened the deal with a large bonus.

“On the other hand, I do agree with the editorial encouraging Barbara Perea Casey to apply for the position. She was born and raised here and has been a teacher, an administrator, a legislator for 12-plus years, a superintendent at Hondo Valley Public Schools and at West Las Vegas. Barbara also has a doctorate,” Romero said.

Romero said when hiring a superintendent, sometimes board members don’t have any idea what they are getting.

“But with Barbara we know what she’s been through, we know what she can do, and she would be an excellent choice” without a national search, which Romero estimated would cost $40,000 or $50,000.

Romero said quite a few teachers have approached him asking why the board doesn’t just name Casey as superintendent.

“We have done that in the past. At least I know we did that with Dr. Campos, and for us not to even consider Barbara at this point is really shortsighted on our part. I am also glad that the Optic also kind of gave her an endorsement. I don’t think there’s anything I can say about Barbara that people don’t know already in terms of her abilities and experience — she knows the system, she knows New Mexico and loves the kids and she would be an excellent choice,” Romero said.

Board Vice President Ramon “Swoops” Montao said he didn’t disagree with Romero, but said the process should be open and fair. He said on many occasions, people within the district have been bypassed.

“Ultimately, we need to find a good fit for the City Schools. I’m not saying that Dr. Casey wouldn’t be a good fit for our schools, but we have an opportunity, and you’re the one, Dr. Romero, who always says a fair process needs to be in place,” Montao said.

Montao said he didn’t think a national search was necessary because he felt there were some qualified candidates within the state. He called for input from the district’s staff and teachers, but said that in the end, it would be the board’s decision.

Montao called for the board to find a replacement as soon as possible so that the person would have a say in new hirings.

“I feel that this district needs to have a leader in place, and I’m not saying you’re (Campos) not leading this district at this time, sir, but we have some big decisions to make on hiring staff, and I don’t think it’s fair that an outgoing superintendent should make those decisions when he’s not going to be here. So I’d like to get someone here very soon that can work side by side with you. A new superintendent needs to be privy to hiring people they will have to work with, so with all due respect to you, Dr. Campos, I don’t think you should make those decisions before you leave this district,” Montao said.

Board member Phillip Vigil said the search didn’t have to become so complex and far-reaching that the board become muddled in the process.

“I understand we have people in-house that could become superintendent, but I’m also a strong believer in opening up the process. We’ve been through this process twice before (with Hank Dominguez and Pete Campos), and it’s my opinion we open the search statewide,” Vigil said.

Luna called on student board member April Esquibel to give her thoughts on the selection process. Esquibel said the new superintendent should be someone from the local area who understood the people and the culture.

She said she agreed with other board members that a nationwide search was unnecessary.

Luna said the board needs to move one step at a time, but it’s essential that they set the course of action in a timely manner “because before we know it, the time will be here where we have to make that transition.”

Before calling it a night, the board agreed that they would begin advertising for the position after the regular board meeting on March 19. They also agreed to a forum for public input at Memorial Middle School on March 25.