With current District 5 member Candelaria Patterson declining to seek reelection to the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education, three candidates are looking to replace her.
Patterson, who was elected to the board in 2017, said she chose to not seek reelection so she could spend more time with her husband, who received a kidney transplant during her time as a board member.
“We want to spend some time together with our families,” she said.
According to Patterson, the biggest issue the next board faces is managing APS’s infrastructure.
“I believe it is incumbent upon them to support the infrastructure for some of our schools,” she said.
With Patterson stepping down after a single term, a diverse group of candidates with a wide range of work experience are runniing for the District 5 seat.
The district encompasses most of the West Side south of Montaño, with West Mesa High School as the sole high school in the district.
Originally from Nigeria, Uche Ohiri, 60, currently works as a family nurse practitioner and holds a pair of master’s degrees including a master’s in nursing. Ohiri also has held jobs as an educator for CNM’s nursing program, a probation and parole officer and as an attorney in Nigeria.
South Valley native Emma Jones, 34, has a 15-year history working in activism and community engagement, most recently as a member of two education advocacy and policy groups.
Crystal Tapia-Romero, 42, founder of the New Mexico Early Learning Academy, has more than 20 years of experience in early childhood education. She served on an early learning council for the governor, in addition to several other education boards.
When it comes to the biggest issue facing APS, both Ohiri and Tapia-Romero cite poor student achievement, with Ohiri pointing to a need for improvement in District 5 graduation rates. Tapia-Romero says the district has “poor outcomes in academic success and no sufficient accountability for the budget.”
Jones said inequality is the biggest issue for the district and mentioned a lack of technology resources many families faced during the pandemic.
While APS has a districtwide mask mandate and talks of a vaccine mandate have been floated, the candidates differ in their approach to the issues.
Ohiri said she “strongly supports” a mask mandate in schools and is open to a vaccine mandate that is “fair and equitable” once it is approved for students of all ages.
Jones said she is in support of a mask mandate but is not in favor of a vaccine mandate or “penalizing people who can’t get vaccinated,” although she said vaccines should be encouraged.
Tapia-Romero said, “There is no one size fits all solution to a mask mandate,” adding that masking for school sports should be “evaluated on a case-by-case basis.” She is not in favor of a vaccine mandate, saying the “decision should be up to the parent.”