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Five vying for positions on East board

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By The Staff

Five candidates are competing for the Las Vegas City Schools board in Tuesday’s election.

The candidates running for Position 1 are incumbent Philip Leger, Matt Martinez and Gabriel Lucero. Vying for Position 2 are incumbent Elaine Luna and Pamela Daves. Teresa Gray’s name is on the ballot for Position 2, but she said she is no longer running.

The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information on poll locations, call the county clerk’s office at 425-9331.

The Optic gave questionnaires to all candidates to give readers a better idea about their stands on the issues. The questionnaires follow:

Position 1

Name: Philip Leger

Age: No answer

How long in San Miguel County: I have lived in San Miguel County for 66 years.

Occupation: I am a retired educator from the Las Vegas City Schools where I worked as a teacher, a coach, an athletic director, and an assistant principal at Memorial Middle School and at Robertson High School from 1993 to 1995. I was principal of Robertson High School for three years. I have been a board member of Las Vegas City Schools for the past 12 years.

Education: I graduated from Robertson High School in 1961. I went on to Highlands University and received my B.A. in history, government and art in 1965. In 1973, I earned my master’s degree from Highlands in school administration.

Family: I am married to Kathleen Cox Leger for the past 39 years. Our eldest son Philip is 38 years old and a graduate of Robertson High School the class of 1989. He received his B.A. from Highlands in 1994. He is married to Renee Vigil Leger and they have three children. Felisha is 17 and a senor at Robertson High School, Jessie, a seventh-grader at Memorial Middle School, and Noah a third-grader at Legion Park Elementary School. Philip also has a daughter who name is Aija Jade Leger, who lives in Las Cruces and a freshman at Oñate High School. Our youngest son William is 35 and also a graduate of Robertson High School class of 1992. He is married to Barbara Lopez Leger and they have two children. Brook is 8 years old and Antonio will be 5 in February. They reside in Albuquerque where they both are teachers. William received his B.A. and his master’s degree from Highlands University. Our daughter Jeannine graduated from Robertson High School in 1999. She received her B.S. and master’s degree from New Mexico State University in nutrition and food science. Jeannine works for the United State Department of Agriculture as an enforcement officer analyst and stationed in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Why are you the best candidate for the job? I am the best candidate for the position of school board member for the East Las Vegas City Schools for the following reasons:

• I have received both a B.A. and a master in fields of education from New Mexico Highlands University.

• I have worked in the Las Vegas City Schools district as a teacher and coach for 17 years. I have worked as an athletic director, an assistant principal at Memorial Middle School and lastly as principal at Robertson High School until my retirement in 1995.

• Finally, I have been a school board member in the Las Vegas City School district where I have dealt with various projects, programs and situations involving the school district. I am very proud of all accomplishments during my tenure.

What is your opinion of the school district’s handling of alleged sexual assaults at a recent football camp? At the present time our school attorney has advised us not to discuss this matter with anyone.

If the board has $100 to spend and it could only go for academics or athletics, how much would you give for each? Explain your answer. Since the primary purpose of the school district is to educate students, therefore the $100 should all go to the academic programs.

What is your view of the school district’s vocational or educational offerings? What improvements can be made? As far as vocational offerings in our school district we have vocational ag, welding, woodworking, culinary arts, drafting, a beginning engineering class and business classes. With the limited funds that our district receives, I believe that our vocational and educational offerings are outstanding. Many districts our size have had to cut some of their programs. We have not cut any programs or released any of our staff.

If two board members are having problems with one another, should the matter be discussed in open or closed session? Explain. Personal problems pertaining to the district in this case between two board members should be discussed in closed session in accordance with the open meetings act.

In what cases would you agree to go into closed session? Should there be a closed session after every open meeting? The only time the board can go into closed sessions are for personnel problems and pending litigation. the school board should go into an executive session only when necessary.

Would you support a proposal to administratively consolidate the two districts while keeping both high schools open? Why or why not? The only way that I would support a proposal to administratively consolidate the East and West districts is if the citizens of both districts are in favor of such a move. If this were to happen, I would strongly propose that the two high schools remain separate.

Gabe Lucero

Age: 49

How long in San Miguel County: 30 years

Occupation: Self-employed owner Northern New Mexico District

Experience: Small business owner 18 years

Education: Associate degree machine technology NMHU

Family: Lindy wife of 27 years; Gabriel Antonio, RHS 2002, USMA West Point 2006, US Army Aviator; Monica RHS 2003, UNM 2008; Elicia RHS 2006, junior year UNM

Why are you the best candidate for the job? I would make regular efforts to ascertain public opinion on matters to be discussed at board meetings. I will make decisions based on the needs of the all the people and the overall educational interest of the students. I will see that all schools are well managed, that tax dollars are wisely spent, and the interests of the public are protected. I will maintain fair and equitable employment practices for all employees, promote good relationships and morale among staff. I will work to provide valuable learning experiences for all students, strive to meet the unique and separate needs of individuals, and protect the rights and responsibilities of these young citizens.

What is your opinion of the school district’s handling of the alleged sexual assaults at a recent football camp? Respectfully no comment

If the board has $100 to spend and it could only go for academics or athletics, how much would you give for each? Explain your decision. $80 academics, $20 athletics. Academics are a much better investment for our kids.

What is your view of the school district’s vocational or educational offerings? What improvements can be made? I feel the Las Vegas City Schools have good vocational and educational offerings, but feel they could be improved by utilizing NMHU and LCC promoting concurrent enrollment and prep tech.

If two board members are having problems with one another, should the matter be discussed in open or closed session? Explain. The open meeting act has guidelines for issues that may be dealt with in closed session. Issues too numerous to mention.

In what cases would you agree to go into closed session? Should there be a closed session after every open meeting? Only those cases covered by the open meeting act should go into executive session. Closed session after every meeting

Would you support a proposal to administratively consolidate the two districts while keeping both high schools open? Why or why not? Yes I would support consolidation, and keep both schools open. I believe both schools have good things to offer, and I think a good rivalry promotes school pride and spirit.

MATT MARTINEZ

Age: 49

How long in San Miguel County: Lifelong

Occupation: General manager KNMX-KMDZ-KBQL

Experience: Management 32 Years

Education: High School graduate, NAB Executive Development Program, Georgetown University 2004

Family: Married, two daughters, one at Robertson High School the other at Memorial Middle School

Why are you the best candidate for the job? I am the best candidate for the job because I firmly believe that the LVCS Board of Education needs a change. As a board member, I can bring in a fresh perspective, new ideas and progressive thinking. With my many years of business management, I have the knowledge and experience to help lead the district in economically stressed times.

What is your opinion of the school district’s handling of the alleged sexual assaults at a recent football camp? The district found itself in a very tenuous situation in dealing with the alleged sexual assaults. In looking back, I think the district should have been more openly cooperative with the state police. The district investigation appeared to be thorough, but I do not believe that the superintendent should have reinstated the athletic director until the investigation had been completed. It is always difficult to maintain the confidentiality of students while trying to be open with the public. The welfare of the students should be a priority at all times. At the first sign of problems, the superintendent should have directed the athletic director and the coaches to return to town to prevent any further incidents. In light of this issue, we should submit policies which educate our students on what type of behavior is acceptable in school activities.

If the board has $100 to spend and it could only go for academics or athletics, how much would you give for each? Explain your decision. Athletic events bring in money from game entrance fees, booster clubs and private donors. Academics are mostly dependent on funding from the state Legislature and the federal government.  While I believe that athletics are important to the overall rounding out of a good education, I believe that academics are first and foremost in any educational institution. Based on my explanation above, I would give $85 to academics and $15 to athletics.

What is your view of the school district’s vocational or educational offerings? What improvements can be made? The school district has a great FFA program at the high school that is extracurricular in nature. Other areas that are vocational are offered as electives: computer classes, woodworking and family and consumer science. The middle school has a partnership with New Mexico State University and the students themselves grow plants and vegetables in the greenhouse. I believe that perhaps a program such as Agriculture in the Classroom should be promoted districtwide to ensure that students learn about other areas that may be available to them. Career education starting at the elementary schools should be emphasized to help students better understand the opportunities that are available to them in different job areas. Career clusters at the middle school and high school would give students an opportunity to sample different areas of interest to them so that when they complete high school, they have a better idea as to what would be a good career choice for them.

If two board members are having problems with one another, should the matter be discussed in open or closed session? Explain. When board members are having problems with each other, the board president should intervene to try to solve the problem. If the problem is a personal problem between the two board members, it should be taken care of internally. The board members should act in a professional manner when they are performing their duties as elected members of the board of education and the problem should not escalate to the point where it interferes with their functioning as a board. Normally, the open meetings act does not allow for internal board member problems to be discussed in executive session.

In what cases would you agree to go into closed session? Should there be a closed session after every open meeting? Closed sessions should be strictly for those issues that are allowed by the Open Meetings Act: I do not believe that there should be an executive session at every meeting.

Would you support a proposal to administratively consolidate the two districts while keeping both high schools open? Why or why not? I would have to study this issue very carefully. Funding for the districts, educational program, curricular issues, student morale, status of employees, administrative costs, athletics, etc. all have to be looked into before such an important decision could be made. At this point in time, I would not be able to state unequivocally if I would or would not support consolidation.

Position 2

PAMELA DAVES

Age: 69

How long in San Miguel County: We retired here in 2000. My husband lived in Las Vegas when his father attended Highlands and again when he also attended Highlands.

Occupation: Retired from physical therapy in 1999.

Experience: I worked many years as an attorney in private practice and also served in several judicial positions. I also worked as a licensed physical therapist. I taught both law and physical therapy at the college level. Throughout my adult life, I have been active, as a volunteer, in community organizations such as libraries and social welfare agencies which focus on the well-being of residents, especially children. During my years in Las Vegas I have been active, as a volunteer, in Habitat for Humanity, Red Cross, Carnegie Library Advisory Board, Las Vegas Housing Authority Board, Citizens Committee for Change, American Association of University Women, Children, Youth and Family Division of the Citizens Review Board, the Homeless Shelter and the Soup Kitchen.

Education: BS, University of Kansas, 1962; JD, Northwestern School of Law, Lewis and Clark College, 1974.

Family: Husband, Doyle Daves, three children, eight grandchildren

Why are you the best candidate for the job? I have had a diversity of experience in many different kinds of organizations all focused on improving community services. In all these activities, a special priority has been helping children and young people succeed. As a mother and grandmother, I am very aware of the challenges young people face today. I believe that I bring a fresh perspective and a deep concern for the education and well-being of children and for the teachers we depend on to help them develop. I can be a positive force to help our school district reach its goals and better serve our children and families.

What is your opinion of the school district’s handling of the alleged sexual assaults at a recent football camp? I think the school administration and school board responded quickly and forcefully to take corrective action following an extremely unfortunate event. The problem is that school authorities had not created a school environment that provides clear guidelines for appropriate behavior of teachers and students in official school activities. This and other recent events make clear the need for much more careful attention to defining parameters for all school activities. Proactive preparation is much more effective than reaction after an incident.

If the board has $100 to spend and it could only go for academics or athletics, how much would you give for each? The only purpose of school is the education and development of students. Academics and athletics are not separate areas — they work hand in hand to develop talent, maturity and responsibility. Perhaps this focus has not been prominent enough in the past few years to the detriment of our students.

What is your view of the school district’s vocational or educational offerings? What improvements can be made? It is evident that the success rate of our students is distressingly low — far too many are not graduating. Clearly, our offerings and the guidance and leadership of the teachers are not managing to inspire a large number of our students to set individual goals and work toward their achievement. A careful assessment of the curriculum and the way it is presented to students is a high priority. I suspect that far too few of our students are led to understand the importance of education and the consequences of either failure or success. The opportunities for high school students through concurrent enrollment in Highlands University and Luna Community College need enhanced emphasis. Luna’s growing vocational career offerings provide great opportunities for less academically inclined student.

If two board members are having problems with one another, should the matter be discussed in open or closed session? Explain. A school board position is a serious community responsibility. As such, board members should always behave professionally and treat each other with the respect appropriate to the position. While strong differences of opinion among members are probably inevitable and healthy, it is incumbent on each member to maintain professional behavior during discussion. It should not be necessary to use (abuse) closed sessions to iron out such difficulties. Sometimes an off-the-record one-on-one discussion may be useful to avoid embarrassment during formal meetings.

In what cases would you agree to a closed session? Should there be a closed session after every open meeting? A school board is charged with conducting public business and should do this in public. Closed sessions are intended to deal with sensitive personnel issues to avoid exposing personal information. Closed meetings should be limited to this purpose and should be infrequent.

Would you support a proposal to administratively consolidate the two districts while keeping both high schools open? Why or why not? This is a very emotional issue for many (most?) Las Vegans and may be addressed by the community at some point in time. My present focus is in helping the Las Vegas City School District improve to better serve all of our students, their teachers and the community.

Elaine Luna

Age: 47

How long in San Miguel County: 31 years

Occupation: Director, Luna Community College, Montañas del Norte Area Health Education Center

Experience: Las Vegas City Schools board member, 2003 to present; school Board President, 2004-2006, 2007-2008; director, Luna Community College, MdN AHEC, 1996 to present; independent consultant/facilitator for strategic planning on community and statewide development projects

Education: Master of Social Work, NMHU 1982; bachelor of Social Work, NMHU 1981; N.M. licensed independent social worker, medical specialty

Family: David (married 27 Years), Joel 23, Matthew 20, Amanda 16

Why are you the best candidate for the job? My years of experience in the field of social work and commitment to public service to my community have prepared me for the position of school board member. I proudly serve on the school board to represent the public’s voice and have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge and skills during this time. I strive to maintain the highest level of community involvement and accomplish this through active participation on state and local advisory boards to include: the San Miguel County Family & Community Health Council, New Mexico Health Resources and the New Mexico Higher Education Department – Health Advisory Committee. I am committed to enriching the lives of our youth and to the continued growth and progress of our community.

What is your opinion of the school district’s handling of the alleged sexual assaults at a recent football camp? It is essential that as a current board member I protect the integrity of the ongoing legal investigation and the confidentiality of all involved. The safety and well-being of our students is priority No. 1. Policies and procedures as well as other protective factors are in place to assure the safety of our students. One example of a protective factor that has been developed by LVCS licensed and dedicated school social workers and counselors is the SUCCESS (Students Using Character and Courage to Excel Socially and Scholastically) initiative. They will provide an interpersonal violence program for the district and community, a truancy and re-engagement program, character education, a discipline matrix and will review safety procedures within the district. Given the situation and circumstances that occurred, I believe that as a newly hired superintendent, Mr. Rick Romero responded quickly and appropriately and he kept the community and parents informed.

If the board has $100 to spend and it could only go for academics or athletics, how much would you give for each? Explain your decision. The educational umbrella encompasses academics, as well as many other services, programs, and activities that serve the growth and development of our students. Dollars are divided among these services, programs and activities without prejudice and exclusivity. These include music, art, MESA, Future Farmers of America, Business Professionals of America, dance, cheerleading and other clubs and organizations as well as athletic programs. Let us not lose sight of the fact that extracurricular activities build character and healthy connection that works hand in hand with academics. Educational dollars for the classroom are distributed under a state funding formula that is carefully monitored.

What is your view of the school district’s vocational or educational offerings? What improvements can be made? The Las Vegas City Schools has been strategically strengthening its academic, athletic and extracurricular programs and facilities over the last several years. The district has many successful programs, and I wish I could highlight all of them, but here are a few examples:

• The 9th Grade Academy is the newest addition to Robertson High School this year. Young men and women can transition from the middle school to the high school with ease and an opportunity to gain an educational experience with the excellent support of their teachers and staff.

• The Pina Ludi Cardinal Health Center located at Sierra Vista Elementary is a state-of-the-art facility that is staffed with licensed health care providers to promote healthy lifestyles, to provide mental health resources and to meet the health care needs of all students in the district.

If two board members are having problems with one another, should the matter be discussed in open or closed session? Explain. It is essential for a governing body to maintain a spirit of collaboration and cooperation. When relationships amongst board members are conflicted, it removes the focus from academics and student achievement. Given the multiple responsibilities that board members carry, it is not uncommon to experience challenges in the boardroom. These challenges are met during open board meetings. The important message to come away with after the issues have been resolved, and the dust has settled, is that our common purpose is to prepare our students for a successful future.

In what cases would you agree to go into closed session? Should there be a closed session after every open meeting? An executive session or closed session is used solely for the purpose of communicating limited personnel matters, school matters and pending litigation. No action is taken during the closed session as per the Open Meetings Act. It is not necessary to go into a closed session after every open meeting.

Would you support a proposal to administratively consolidate the two districts while keeping both high schools open? Why or why not? The consolidation of the two school districts is a complex issue and not to be taken lightly. There are many factors to consider, research to be done, and community input to receive, just to begin to understand the impact of consolidation and what it would mean to our community. We have heard some of the pros and cons to the concepts of consolidation. Without the assurances that consolidation would best serve the needs of the children in this district, I hold firmly to our current system, especially when both districts are working well.