Parents and students at Las Vegas City Schools are worried a loss may soon occur at their school district. During a regular board meeting Thursday evening, music director Martin Sena confirmed he has been offered a music director position at Pecos Schools. He said he has not made the decision on whether to stay with the east side district or go to Pecos.
Several parents have complained in recent weeks that Las Vegas City Schools hasn’t yet given Sena a contract for the current school year and that the board and administration have not given the district’s music program their full support.
But at last week’s board meeting, Board President Gloria Lovato Pacheco said Sena does have a contract, and Sena said he has been supported.
Superintendent Sheryl McNellis-Martinez said Sena is seeking a pay hike and greater financial support for the music program.
“I love what I do here,” Sena said. “I work very hard with my students… They work very hard to meet my expectations… This board and our superintendent does support our music program and support everything I do. They are working diligently to work out whatever is on the table right now.”
He told the audience and the board that it would not be fair for his family if he did not consider the Pecos schools’ offer.
“We are looking to every possible avenue for a positive outcome for Las Vegas City Schools,” Sena said. “I like it here, I want to continue teaching here and I would like to retire from this district.”
Sena said he is optimistic that the administration and Superintendent McNellis-Martinez would work diligently for the best interest of the students.
“We are here for you and we are here to bring Las Vegas City Schools to another level,” Sena said. “This music program has been a very, very, very positive impact to our school, our city, our community, our district and our state… I am looking forward because I am optimistic we are going to resolve this and move forward.”
Sena has been employed at Las Vegas City Schools for roughly seven years. He previously worked for the West school district.
He is credited with creating an award-winning marching band and three mariachi groups within Las Vegas City Schools. Many students and parents have posted their positive thoughts of Sena’s leadership on Facebook.
“I promise you that I am not going to sign up with Pecos until I have given Las Vegas City Schools the opportunity to fight for what we have,” Sena said. “Should it have been with maybe not such a kind heart with the offer that was set forth, everyone else would have just signed and ‘bueno, bye’; that is not my style.”
In Spanish, Sena said he was not taught that way. He said he is grateful for the support he has received throughout the years, including from the board and McNellis-Martinez.
Sena said that although he does have a wish list, the district has always been as monetarily supportive as possible.
This past year, Sena directed the Robertson High School Red Wave Marching Band to a first- place award at the New Mexico State Fair parade.
On Saturday evening, the band braved the elements to perform for the hundreds of attendees of New Mexico Highlands University’s Birthday Bash, as they made their way from Ilfeld Auditorium to the new student center.
The group, along with the cheerleaders and drill team also took part in the Highlands homecoming parade.
Recently, four of Sena’s mariachi groups, Infantil, Juvenil, Cardenal of the school district and Paisano del Valle, which includes former students of West Las Vegas, released a CD, “Mis Mariachis, Mis Estudiantes, Mis Amigos, (My Mariachis, My Students, My Friends). Sena’s Mariachi Cardenal performed at the Santa Fe Opera as part of the Santa Fe Fiestas’ Mariachi Extravaganza.
Lovato Pacheco told a packed board room that the district would suffer a huge loss if Sena decides to leave. Board member Felix Alderete echoed Lovato Pacheco’s remarks. He said the board does not have the authority to hire and fire, but, he he added that if Sena leaves, the district would hire a highly qualified teacher to replace him.
Lovato Pacheco added, “It is rumored that Mr. Martin Sena does not have a contract — that is incorrect... It is rumored that this board does not support the district music programs — that is very incorrect. This board has stood many times for the music program.”
Harold Garcia, a parent of a Red Wave Mariachi Band member spoke on behalf of the booster club. He said parents and students attended the Thursday evening board meeting to show their support for Sena.
The booster club presented a championship banner to the board for the band’s State Fair Parade Championship. RHS student Fabian Duran spoke on behalf of the music students. Duran said students are concerned about Sena’s potential departure from the district.
“This school has a (music) program that is very strong, and we appreciate that …,” Garcia said. “Martin (Sena) has been a strong leader of this community, not only in Las Vegas City Schools. He has been a strong leader of San Miguel County. He has been a strong leader for the Las Vegas community; he has gone on to present nationwide, locally and statewide, and he continues to do that with our kids. The best news I’ve heard now is that there is a contract for Martin to stay. I think that is a relief that is shared with everyone behind me.”
In other business, the board:
— Approved an $800 request for funding for eight FFA students to attend the national competition in Louisville, Ky. FFA adviser Bruce Gibson said the group will use a school vehicle to attend the competition.
Lovato Pacheco’s motion to donate $800 and for the district to pay for the fuel cost of the trip was approved unanimously by board members in attendance, Alderete, Luis Ortiz, and Gabe Lucero, who joined in the meeting by telephone.
McNellis-Martinez was not at Thursday’s meeting but joined in momentarily by telephone as well. Board member Ernesto Salazar did not attend.