ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In a 4-2 vote, the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education appointed a South Valley native and long-time government employee to the District 1 board seat.
Yolanda Montoya-Cordova defeated Lee Romero and Claudia Benavidez, to win the position on Monday.
Benavidez, a community activist and Mexican immigrant, earned votes from board members Barbara Petersen and Candy Patterson.
Board President Dave Peercy said Montoya-Cordova had an edge because she received strong support at a candidate community forum last week – the vast majority of the roughly 100 audience feedback forms endorsed her.
Peercy told the Journal, “I think … the forum itself was kind of a deciding point for me.”
Board member Peggy Muller-Aragon opted to vote for Montoya-Cordova based on the community feedback. “It’s important for us to include the public,” she said.
A 1976 graduate of Rio Grande High School, Montoya-Cordova said she is happy to use her background in public policy and social work to serve the community.
Over the past 30 years, Montoya-Cordova has worked in adolescent development, education, mental health, career and college readiness, and developmental disabilities.
Currently, she is a New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions state administrator overseeing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which includes coordinating with schools to expand career exploration programs.
Montoya-Cordova said one of her top priorities will be trying to ensure that all APS graduates are ready to succeed in college or on the job.
“If our economy is going to grow in New Mexico, we really need to rely on the types of educational experiences and opportunities that are given to young people so they can be competitive,” she said. “I really want us to have a growing economy, and I think schools are a key part of that.”
Montoya-Cordova will be sworn in Wednesday to serve until 2019, finishing out Analee Maestas’ term.
Maestas stepped down last month after State Auditor Tim Keller uncovered questionable transactions at the charter school she founded, La Promesa Early Learning Center.
Under state statute, the board must fill such vacancies by appointment within 45 days or the decision passes to the New Mexico Public Education Department. During Monday’s meeting, Muller-Aragon advocated for a statutory change to allow for special public elections, rather than appointments, in these cases.