On Tuesday, voters who haven’t already done so can weigh in on four seats on the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education, as well as four seats on the Central New Mexico Community College Governing Board. In years past, few voters have seized that opportunity – about 3 percent to 3.5 percent of registered voters – in great part because the state Constitution, and state law based on it, scheduled school elections separate from all other political contests so women could vote.
Under a recent constitutional amendment vote and a state Supreme Court decision last year, that archaic provision no longer binds us. Now, state legislators need to change the law that puts school elections in February of odd-numbered years and combine them with other non-partisan elections, like city and county races.
It is important they do so – New Mexico spends more than $2.75 billion a year on its K-12 public schools and there are around 30 community colleges in the state. So, while the status quo likes a low turnout it can dominate, taxpayers deserve to have the people who determine how all that money will be spent and how those schools are run elected by more than a shameful 3 percent of voters.
But, for this election, it’s still February. Polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for early voting today and on Tuesday, Election Day. District maps and a list of voting sites are available at bernco.gov, aps.edu and cnm.edu.
Here are the Journal’s recommendations:
Albuquerque Public Schools
District 3 – Ali Ennenga
Ennenga has professional experience inside and outside APS. She was a paralegal before teaching in the district’s elementary and middle schools from 2009 to 2015, and now runs a business that helps children and adults improve their reading.
Ennenga says “seeing the look on a child’s face when he or she discovers a love of reading is priceless.” She supports retaining third-graders who can’t read, but emphasizes APS needs to streamline its literacy interventions. And she says “APS and the New Mexico Public Education Department have the opportunity to move our students from 49th in the nation to a higher level through collaboration and cooperation.”
District 3’s rough boundaries are the county line to Central Avenue and the river to Louisiana. Incumbent Lorenzo Garcia has fought state education reforms that are now bearing fruit. The Journal recommends voters in District 3 elect Ali Ennenga to the school board.
District 5 – No endorsement
The four candidates in this district, west of the river and roughly from Monta ñ o to Dennis Chavez Boulevard, are all opposed to basic measures of accountability the state has put in place in recent years. These include: third-grade retention for those few children who cannot read after numerous remediation efforts; including student test scores as part of teacher evaluations; and requiring high school students to pass a graduation test. Because not one of the four candidates vying for the West Side seat appears focused on improving the educational outcomes of the district’s 80,000-plus students, the Journal cannot support a candidate in District 5.
District 6 – Abbas Akhil
Akhil is a native of India who came to New Mexico to study engineering at New Mexico State University and stayed for long careers at Sandia National Laboratories and PNM.
Akhil understands there is value in the Common Core curriculum if implemented correctly, believes student achievement scores have a place in teacher evaluations, and says “the Board of Education and the school superintendent should have periodic meetings to inform the N.M. PED of the issues that are unique to the district … .”
District 6 includes Tijeras, and sections of the Southeast and Northeast Heights. The Journal recommends voters in District 6 elect Abbas Akhil.
District 7 – Brian Tierney
Tierney is also a Sandia National Laboratories employee and a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve’s Military Intelligence Corps. The Massachusetts native supports third-grade retention as a last resort – and he speaks from personal experience, sharing that aggressive, earlier intervention is key. “It worked for me after failing kindergarten. After intensive summer reading, I entered first grade at an above-average reading level.”
Tierney is alone in pushing for an independent audit of APS finances. He also believes “APS would be well served by seeking a better relationship with the New Mexico Public Education Department.”
District 7 runs roughly from the county line to Comanche Road and the Foothills to San Pedro Drive. Incumbent David Peercy has also fought state education reforms that are now bearing fruit. The Journal recommends District 7 voters put Brian Tierney on the school board.
Central New Mexico Community College
District 1 – Pauline J. Garcia
Incumbent Garcia’s political experience demonstrates a longtime interest in education. She currently is vice-chair of the CNM board, on which she has served since 2013. But she also served on the board from 1997-2000, when the college was still T-VI. She also was a member of the APS Board of Education from 1987-94.
District 1 covers Albuquerque’s West Side north of Bridge. The Journal recommends that voters keep Pauline J. Garcia on the CNM board.
District 4 – Annette Chavez y De La Cruz
Chavez y De La Cruz already has an insider’s view of CNM that should serve her well on the board. Though now retired, she worked for CNM for 17 years, and has been the director of its South Valley Campus and its Job Connection Center.
She says as a board member, one of her priorities would be identifying workforce needs so the community college could address them.
District 4 basically covers the South Valley. The Journal recommends that voters put Annette Chavez Y De La Cruz on the CNM board.
District 5 – Nancy Baca
Baca was appointed to the CNM board in September and says she would like to see CNM expand the number of short programs that more quickly lead to jobs and offer more online education options.
Baca owns a residential property management business and was a longtime journalist who previously worked for the Albuquerque Journal.
District 5 covers Albuquerque east of the river and south of Central, and an area between Central and I-40 from the river to San Mateo. The Journal recommends voters keep Nancy Baca on the CNM board.
District 7 – Michael Glennon
Glennon knows CNM from top to bottom. He worked there nearly 26 years and served as its president from 1998-2007 before retiring. He says balancing the budget is the biggest issue now facing CNM, but he appears primed to face the “real difficult decisions.”
District 7 is a huge district that covers areas of the North Valley, Northeast Heights and East Mountains. The Journal recommends that voters put Michael Glennon on the CNM board.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.