ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The race in Albuquerque Public Schools’ District 4 – to be decided Feb. 3 – is a wide-open race with five candidates and no incumbent, as the current board member for the University of New Mexico area, Marty Esquivel, is not seeking re-election.
Four of the five candidates are former teachers, including Barbara Petersen. A former elementary teacher in APS, Petersen, 62, said she will be a strong advocate for students and families, and one of the key policies she will support is the expansion of community schools within APS.
Community schools provide social services and other support on site. They not only help families receive needed services, but also help them feel welcome at school, she said.
“For a lot of families, they don’t see themselves, for whatever reason, as being able to walk into a school,” but community schools change that, she said.
Petersen also said she doesn’t hide that she is an active member within the Albuquerque Teachers Federation. The union has endorsed her in this race.
John “Jake” Lopez, 65, is another supporter of the community schools model and a former APS teacher.
Lopez said a major imperative would be closing the academic achievement gap that exists amongst poor and minority students, as well as others.
He said community schools are an effective way to counteract the corrosive affects poverty has on students’ ability to learn. Lopez also said efforts to make schools more inclusive of all cultures are also important.
“We’ve got to have students feel comfortable in school,” he said.
That also will be one of the key initiatives for candidate Sina-Aurelia Pleasant-Soul Bowe, 38. She said students of all cultures must feel comfortable in school and also see their cultures reflected in their school’s curriculum.
Pleasant-Soul Bowe said she would push for anti-racism training for APS staff in order to address not just overt racism, but also subtle and unintended racism. She is a parent of two children in APS, graduated from APS and is a former teacher.
A key part of candidate Charles “Ched” MacQuigg’s appeals to voters is that he wants to make the board more responsive to community and teacher input.
MacQuigg, 64, a former APS teacher, said he would like the district to hire an outside entity to conduct an ethics review of APS administration and its practices.
MacQuigg sued the district because the school board told him he could not attend board meetings, saying his behavior was disruptive. He vehemently denies his behavior was disruptive. A District Court judge granted a temporary injunction allowing him to return to board meetings.
Mark Gilboard, 43, a parent of two children in APS and a marketing manager, said parents in his community are worried about the amount of testing their students are subject to in schools these days. If elected, he said, he would take a hard look at what tests are necessary.
Gilboard also said he is a strong advocate for art and music education. Those subjects are often the ones that get kids excited about learning, he said.