Rio Rancho Public Schools’ long-time executive director for facilities is moving on after 18 years with the district.
Al Sena will become head of the University of New Mexico’s Physical Plant Department on June 26, managing 400 employees and a $63-million annual budget.
“It’s going to be a pretty neat change of venue for me,” Sena told the Journal. “I’ve been looking to go to the university. It’s been a long-term goal, but I really didn’t think it would happen this soon, so I was excited about the opportunity.”
Sena said he will miss RRPS, particularly his co-workers.
He has also enjoyed watching the district’s rapid growth during his tenure. In 1999, RRPS had five schools. Today, there are 19, with two more in the works.
As head of facilities, Sena was responsible for crafting the long-range master plan that guided those projects.
“The neat thing is that you can see the fruits of your labor popping up out of the ground, and then occupied by the students and the staff,” Sena said. “We try to talk to the students and the staff on a regular basis and ask how they are enjoying the buildings.”
While every building project is “kind of like a child,” Sena is particularly proud of Sandia Vista Elementary and V. Sue Cleveland High School. Colinas del Norte Elementary also has “one of the nicest little gyms you will find,” he said.
Rio Rancho’s growth has created some challenges.
In April, the Board of Education voted to reassign roughly 200 Ernest Stapleton Elementary students to Puesta del Sol Elementary and Colinas del Norte Elementary to alleviate crowding.
RRPS has long wanted to build an additional school, Joe Harris Elementary, but the groundbreaking has been pushed back repeatedly. Today, it is slated to open in four to five years.
“It is exciting and very challenging,” Sena said. “You do have some points of frustration that you have to work through, but when you do, it is good to know that you have made a difference and you are continuing to do that every day.”
Sena thanked voters for supporting Rio Rancho school bonds, which fund the construction and renovation. Last summer, the most recent $60-million RRPS bond was approved by a large margin.
“The community has trusted us,” Sena said.
RRPS Superintended Sue Cleveland called Sena an outstanding leader in the district.
“He has delivered well-designed plans and has built schools all across this community,” Cleveland said. “Bond monies and (mill levy) monies were well spent under his leadership and he was always willing to do whatever was best for students of Rio Rancho. He is a great leader who will be missed.
“I wish him the best and hope to see him at Lobo games!”
Rio Rancho Public Schools has not named a new facilities director.
Prior to his tenure at RRPS, Sena served the State of New Mexico at the Public Education Department in the Capital Outlay Bureau and the Property Control Division of the General Services Department.
A Santa Fe native, Sena graduated from UNM with a master’s in architecture. He is a father of three, including a UNM sophomore in marketing and sports journalism.
“It is nice to have her there,” Sena said. “She will be my eyes and ears on the ground.”