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Pecos board candidate questionnaires

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Editor’s note: With school board elections around the corner, it’s time to brush up on where candidates stand on the issues. The Optic submitted questionnaires to all school board candidates in San Miguel County. What follows are the responses from candidates running for a seat on the Pecos Independent School Board of Education. Election Day is Tuesday.

Position 4

Debbie Gilmore
Age: 53
Address, phone number, e-mail: 17 Camino Andres Vigil, 575-318-9418, realtordg2000@yahoo.com
Education: Hobbs, High School graduated 1978, San Antonio College of Medical and Dental graduated 1982, Kaplan Professional Schools graduated 10-25-1998, New Mexico Junior College, Associate of Arts, graduated 2012, Eastern New Mexico University, Bachelors, graduate 2013
Occupation:    Owner/Real Estate Broker of Debbie Gilmore Realty
Other experience: Santa Fe Realtors Association, Hobbs Association of Realtors, Realtors Association of New Mexico, National Association of Realtors
Hobbs Board of Realtors – offices held:     
2003    Vice President
2002    Secretary
2001    Director    
2001    Chairman of New Member Committee Recognition Awards:    
2001-2009 Million Dollar Producer-Top Producer Award-Hobbs Association of Realtors    
2001    Director-Hobbs Association of Realtors
2000    Salesperson of the Year-Hobbs Association of Realtors
2000    Top Producer Award-Hobbs Association of Realtors
1999     Rookie of the Year-Hobbs Association of Realtors
Volunteer:        
2006-09 Women’s Networking Alliance
2006    Building a Strategic Business Plan
2006    NAR Code of Ethics & Enforcement
Family: Married, husbands name Russ Gilmore, two sons, Nick, U.S. Marine-Camp Pendleton, CA and Jesus, Program  coordinator, Syncreon-Grapevine, TX; One daughter, Jessica, son in law David and granddaughter Imara live in U.S. Naval Base Yokosuka, Japan; Three stepdaughters, Courtney and Kylee, with their husbands and four grandchildren in Amarillo, TX and Lindsey with her husband and two grandchildren in Castle Rock, CO
Have you ever been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony? If so, what for? Please exclude traffic citations but include DWI charges and convictions.
No
Have you ever been a plaintiff or defendant in a lawsuit against the school district you are seeking to represent? If so, what was the issue and the outcome? Do you or any of your immediate family members currently have a lawsuit pending against the school district?
No
1. What’s your position on a four-day school week?
The impact of a 4-day school has both the advantages and disadvantages. If the district would consider a 4-day school, I would definitely want the community to voice their thoughts in this issue. Based on hard economic times I would consider a 4-day school week; however, instead of having Friday off I would be in favor of taking Monday off. This would help on extra-curricular activities that so often occur on Friday.
2. What’s your assessment of the job the current administration is doing?
I have attended many school boards meeting. I have seen some good things occur from this administration such as test scores and grades rising. The administration and school board needs to become a more cohesive unit instead of being divided on many issues. I have seen at times that they lack accountability, and respect for one another. We need to revise policies in our school district according to what works and does not work. At this time, there are certain policies that are not working.
3. What can a school board do to increase proficiency rates among students?
Parent involvement needs to be improved, revising policies, increase tutoring, giving teachers, and our student’s more access to technology, and being able to keep up with up-to-date technology. In addition, the school needs to employ different strategies for teaching and organizing instructions. More hands-on teaching in the classroom; we need to make sure students are receiving the best instruction. Quality instruction and materials needs to be proficient. As a board member when we implement our school budget we need to make sure that all the students’ needs are being met.
4. Should the state eliminate social promotion, the practice of passing a student to the next grade level even though their test scores indicate that they are not ready?
This is happening in many school districts and this does not work. You just pass the problem to the next teacher and it affects the students in the classroom. It is state law that we have to provide the proper education to every student in the district. How can a student graduate and be prepared to live their life if the school district has failed by just passing him/her on. I honestly believe if we hold every teacher and administrator accountable we would not be faced with this problem.
5. What are your thoughts on the method used by the state Public Education Department in determining the grades assigned to each school? Is it fair?
There has been controversy over this issue at a state level. There are parts that seem fair and some parts seem unfair. I feel that all staff members need to understand how it is implemented. Not only the staff but also parents need to understand the grading system. Because the grading system that the state has come up with could be a little deceiving. It is important that we educate everyone pertaining to this system (including) administrators, teachers, and parents. Everyone needs to understand that just because you receive an A does not mean that in the real world you did receive an A. There is a lot of intangibles that factor into this.

Michael R. Flores, Sr.
Age: 51
Address, phone number(s) e-mail addresses: HC 74 Box 481, Pecos, N.M. 87552 505-757-6237
Education: 1979 Pecos High Graduate, New Mexico Highlands University - Associate of Science
Occupation: Government retiree, Electrical Contractor - Owner of 4-M Electric
Other experience: Volunteer with my granddaughter at school when possible.
Family: My wife, Martha, sons: Michael, Jr. and Marcus, daughter-in-law, Jessica and granddaughters: Kendra, Rhea, Alandra and Zimira.
 Have you ever been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony? If so, what for? Please exclude traffic citations but include DWI charges and convictions.
No
Have you ever been a plaintiff or defendant in a lawsuit against the school district you are seeking to represent? If so, what was the issue and the outcome? Do you or any of your immediate family members currently have a lawsuit pending against the school district?
No
1. What’s your position on a four-day school week?
You really have to study the pro’s and con’s of the 4-day week. It can save money in energy and transportation, but you have to weigh the needs of the community. Most of our community works 5 days a week, and this could cause issues with childcare. The main focus would be that I would want to see what the research tells us as to student achievement in a 4-day week compared to a regular 5-day week. This could also affect some employees salaries since school would be in session 1 less day. The district would have to survey the community to get their honest feedback before making such a huge decision that would affect so many.
2. What’s your assessment of the job the current administration is doing?
The district has shown tremendous growth in the past 2.5 years under the current administration. Student achievement has grown at a rate higher than the rest of the state. Our schools have been recognized by the Governor and Secretary of Education for the achievement of our students, staff, and administration. There is a true system for school reform that is being implemented by our superintendent. Our superintendent comes with a proven track record, and he leads by example with our staff and students. The students’ education is the most important factor in our district now. We are proud of the direction of our schools.
3. What can a school board do to increase proficiency rates among students?
The district has to continue its implementation of the Standards-Based Instructional System that the current administration has brought in. It focuses on having our students College and Career Ready upon graduation. We have to have accountability for our instructors and support them in becoming the best educators. We do this through professional development and great leadership. We need to retain and recruit the best educators for our children. We need to continue to motivate our students to do their best- to focus on their academics. We have to ensure that the students and the district has clear, high standards; fair assessments; an aligned curriculum; aligned instruction; instructional materials; and interventions in place for the success of all. This is the system that the district follows now.
4. Should the state eliminate social promotion, the practice of passing a student to the next grade level even though their test scores indicate that they are not ready?
I think that the schools should continue to identify the students who need the help to progress or catch up. The schools can intervene to make sure the students get the needed interventions to succeed. Keeping students back a grade can help in some cases, but it most cases it can do harm because of the stigma attached to being held back. We want our students to feel good about school and to do their best. We want them to succeed. It is our job to educate them. We know all kids learn differently; therefore, we have to meet their needs as individuals. By doing so we should be able to reach all students.
5. What are your thoughts on the method used by the state Public Education Department in determining the grades assigned to each school? Is it fair?
I think that the new rating system is a better means to rate a school because it takes into account the growth of all students over a 3-year period. It looks at proficiency levels, it looks at college and career readiness, it looks at graduation rates, it looks at attendance, and it looks at other activities and participation in the school. The new rating system really looks at the whole school as opposed to just one test. It is a better indicator of what the school is doing.

Position 5

Patrick Sandoval
Age: 33
Address, phone number(s) e-mail addresses: PO Box 357 Rowe, NM 87562, 575-421-0023, 505- 469-8232, pat.deanna@gmail.com    
Education: Pecos High School Graduate, Associate degree in Accounting & Business Administration
Occupation: Financial Team Lead, Boards & Commissions, New Mexico Regulation & Licensing Department
Other experience: Middle School Girls Basketball Coach
Family: Wife Deanna Sandoval, one daughter Mariah Sandoval who is 11 and attends Pecos Middle School
Have you ever been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony? If so, what for? Please exclude traffic citations but include DWI charges and convictions.
No
Have you ever been a plaintiff or defendant in a lawsuit against the school district you are seeking to represent? If so, what was the issue and the outcome? Do you or any of your immediate family members currently have a lawsuit pending against the school district?
No
1. What’s your position on a four-day school week?
I don’t agree with a four day school week because I feel it could create hard ships for working parents who need to arrange for child care. I also feel students would not benefit from a four day week because their day would be longer and they could potentially lose focus and have less classroom interaction. I think a four- day school week should be a last resort and only be considered due to budget cuts or budget restraints.
2. What’s your assessment of the job the current administration is doing?
I think the current administration is doing a good job. Under the New Mexico Public Educations school grade report card the elementary graded out at a B. The middle school received a C a half point away from a B and the high school received a B. Out of all the schools in New Mexico 5% received an A, 24% a B, 33% a C, 30% a D, and 8% a F. The middle school improved from a D to a C, and the high school from a C to a B, while the elementary received a B for 2011 and 2012. The grades show the administration is helping the district improve over a two year period, so now the emphasis should be on how we keep improving and move forward.
3. What can a school board do to increase proficiency rates among students?
A school board can approve a budget that is educationally driven. It is important that teachers have satisfactory text books and teaching materials to use for instruction. A school board also needs to have high accountability for their staff ensuring they are performing to the best of their ability to keep the students engaged and interested in all subjects. A school board can also give input into having an aligned curriculum from kindergarten to twelfth grade encouraging communication between teachers of all grade levels to share their ideas and expertise on how to achieve student success.
4. Should the state eliminate social promotion, the practice of passing a student to the next grade level even though their test scores indicate that they are not ready?
I am not in favor of social promotion. It is not beneficial for a student to get passed to the next grade level if they are not ready. If a student is socially promoted it can create too much pressure causing stress, less confidence, and cause the student to struggle throughout the rest of their education.
The key is to recognize the subjects students need help in and work with them so they are ready to be passed to the next grade level at the end of the school year.
5. What are your thoughts on the method used by the state Public Education Department in determining the grades assigned to each school? Is it fair?
I like the grading system that is used by the Public Education department. The method used by the PED captures data from 20,000 more students than AYP. The method uses three years’ worth of student data including SBA results to determine a student’s growth over time, current standing, and a student’s opportunity to learn. The letter grades received by schools distinguish schools that are above proficiency and also indicate higher graduation rates and college readiness by letter grades received. In my opinion the statistics support method used by PED to grade schools is effective.

Jonathan A. Martinez
Age: 20
Address: P.O Box 130 Pecos, NM
 Phone number: 505-757-6758
 E-mail addresses: Martinezrnc@yahoo.com
Education: High School Graduate from Pecos Independent Schools
Attending Santa Fe Community College
Occupation: Extended Care Program Assistant @ Santo Niño Regional Catholic School
Other experience: Intern for the League of Women Voters
Director for the Mitt Romney Campaign for San Miguel County
Worked on Susana Martinez’s Campaign
Family: Parents: Anna and Manuel Vigil; three brothers: Jason, Justin and Jeremy Martinez; one sister: Janaha Vigil; grandparents: Tiburcio and Marcella Roybal all of Pecos
 Have you ever been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony? If so, what for? Please exclude traffic citations but include DWI charges and convictions.
I have never been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony.
Have you ever been a plaintiff or defendant in a lawsuit against the school district you are seeking to represent? If so, what was the issue and the outcome? Do you or any of your immediate family members currently have a lawsuit pending against the school district?
I have never been a plaintiff or defendant to a lawsuit against the school district, I’m seeking to represent.
1. What’s your position on a four-day school week?
I believe a four day school week will only limit the children’s educational learning abilities and create hardships for students.
Education is the key to success and the foundation to a brighter future. To take a whole extra day, of education away, is basically setting up our students for failure. With that extra day taken away, the students would lack the “Teacher-Student Bond.”
It is essential that we stand up for a five-day school week, to lead to a brighter and optimistic future for all generations.
2. What’s your assessment of the job the current administration is doing?
I feel that the current administration has taken steps to improve the students’ performance rate. Our performance has increased academically and is on the right path to success. The administration is weighing every option to improve our students’ performance rate, and help our students achieve academic success.

3. What can a school board do to increase its proficiency rates among students?
The school board can influence positive policy that will encourage students not torment them when it comes to increasing proficiency rates. The school board can also work closer with parents and students so that they can get a better understanding of what every student wants and needs to achieve success at all costs.
4. Should the state eliminate social promotion, the practice of passing a student to the next grade level even though their test scores indicate that they are not ready?
I do feel that the state should eliminate social promotion because it will identify those students who are struggling and will have a harder time in the future if they get passed to the next level. Not eliminating social promotion will enable our students to accept failure as an option. Let’s help our students who are struggling and do them a favor by not passing them to the next grade if they are not ready. In conclusion, by eliminating social promotion we can finally tackle the drop out rate.
5. What are your thoughts on the method used by the state Public Education Department in determining the grades assigned to each school? Is it fair?
The PED’S method is clear solution. It enables not only the parents but the students as well. To get a better understanding of how their school is performing academically. I do feel this method is fair and reasonable because it will lead our students and their parents to weigh their options when it comes to academics. Again, education is the key to success.

Rima R. Varela
Age: 40:
Address, phone number(s) e-mail addresses: PO Box 1095; Pecos, NM 87552; 505-470-1933
Rima.varela@gmail.com
Education: Currently fulfilling a promise to myself by acquiring an Associate’s Degree in Business and Accounting, with an emphasis to continue my education to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree.
Occupation: Contracts Specialist - Property Control Division/General Services Department/State of New Mexico. My career in civil service spans 14 years.
Other experiences (military, volunteer, etc.): As a parent of six children I volunteered my time at the Pecos Elementary School as often as possible. Currently I am involved in several activities i.e. St. Anthony’s Parish Fiesta Committee, President of Parents for Improvement: a group formed to facilitate fund raising for the high school boy’s and girl’s basketball teams, with a focus to expand efforts for all extra-curricular activities at Pecos High School (PHS). I volunteered 10 years of service to the Pecos Young American Football League (YAFL) Teams. Five years of this was running the organization with three other individuals.
Family: Married to John G. Vigil; raising six wonderful young men of which five currently attend PHS.
Have you ever been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony? If so, what for? Please exclude traffic citations but include DWI charges and convictions.
I have never been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony.
Have you ever been a plaintiff or defendant in a lawsuit against the school district you are seeking to represent? If so, what was the issue and the outcome? Do you or any of your immediate family members currently have a lawsuit pending against the school district?
No.
1. What’s your position on a four-day school week?
A four-day school week has its pros and cons. A four-day school week would address numerous budget shortfalls resulting in a reduction in teacher lay-offs. It would also encourage independence and responsibility by requiring students to do more school work at home. But if the school can afford to continue with the traditional five-day school week I believe it would be in the best interest of the students and parents to do so. An extra day off will put additional pressure on parents to fund childcare. Students will also have less classroom instruction or one-on-one time with a teacher. I believe that less classroom time hinders a child’s learning, and in a community that already has little to no resources for engaging our youth, more idle time allows more opportunity to get into trouble.
2. What’s your assessment of the job the current administration is doing?
In conjunction with the previous administration, the current administration has exceeded the expectations on many issues within the last two years. Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) was met in 2010-2011 by Pecos High School. Last year we “Made the Grade” with the Pecos Elementary School receiving a “B”, Pecos Middle School receiving a “C+” (1/2 point from a B), and Pecos High School receiving a “B”, which was no small feat! Coach Gilmore was hired and the boys’ basketball team is not only excelling in the sport, they are being taught many important life lessons. Also a school bond was finally passed! But there are many issues that need to be addressed that are far too often overlooked. It is now common practice to have a zero tolerance on bullying for our students, yet this standard is not enforced on employees of our school district. This is a major issue that must be addressed. A teacher, school administrator or any employee of the school should not be allowed to bully students or each other, ever! When a parent comes to the superintendant or school board with concerns about their children, they should never be turned away. Nor should an employee’s concerns be brushed off. All complaints / concerns should be addressed / investigated. Also necessary is a requirement of rules and standards that are met by ALL school personnel in regards to school resources i.e. school employees should never be allowed to misuse funds, transportation, or any other type of resource for personal use.
3. What can a school board do to increase its proficiency rates among students?
A school board should be there for the best interest of the students first and foremost. Too many times we see board members that have a personal agenda or are only there to represent their own children. There have also been those members that are there to protect positions that their family members hold. This should never be a reason to run for school board. Prospective school board members should always remember the morals and values that are instilled while growing up and carry those when elected. School board elects need to remember that the school does not belong to the superintendent, the school board or the school administration but belongs to the community and the students it serves, and thereby should strive to always meet or exceed the standards set by the students, parents and members of the community.
4. Should the state eliminate social promotion, the practice of passing a student to the next grade level even though their test scores indicate that they are not ready?
Social promotion is a system for failure. Students are not given the tools needed to become successful adults with such a practice. A child should be taught at a very young age that you need to work for everything in life. It is practices like this that permit entitlement in our students. They believe all should be given to them no matter how they behave or how hard they work. It was made to build self-confidence but in reality only encourages students to set low expectations. Social promotion allows them to accept failure when we should be teaching them to strive to be above average; to be successful. College will become a thing of the past because many of these students will not have the basic skills in Mathematics, English and Reading, which are essential for higher education. Our workforce will also suffer as we will be turning out uneducated, entitled young adults into the working world; unable to perform their job duties and cope with the high demands of the workplace.
5. What are your thoughts on the method used by the state Public Education Department in determining the grades assigned to each school? Is it fair?
The current grading method for public schools has evolved since the inception of the No Child Left Behind legislation requirement of AYP. The AYP system was comprised of 37 ways to fail and only 1 way to pass. The process was an “all or nothing” way of grading. AYP used one year’s worth of standardized testing data whereas the new system uses three years. The current grading system excludes grades K-2nd, 9th and 12th. The excusal of these grades overlooks problems such as learning disabilities; especially during the formative years of Kindergarten through 3rd grade. A school that only has kindergarten classes is still graded but is based on its alumni in the 3rd grade i.e. the kindergarten students are followed through the third grade and their testing scores are used for that schools kindergarten grade regardless of the school they had previously attended or are currently attending.
I do not understand how this is justified! Although the New Mexico Public Education Department is making some progress, there is still much more to be done.