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Longtime advocate thrilled to serve RR

For the past year and a half, Wynne Coleman has been a regular in the audience at Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education meetings. On Monday, she took the oath of office and settled into the center seat on the board’s dais as its newest member.

“It is a real honor to serve,” she told the Journal. “It is nice to be on that side of the table.”

The longtime sales manager and mother of two girls, both at Cleveland High School, is ready to hit the ground running.

Though Coleman has only lived in New Mexico for five years, she previously served on the Basehor-Linwood School board, near where she grew up in suburban Kansas City, Kan.

Since her move to the Land of Enchantment, Coleman has been heavily involved with RRPS, joining the 2016 Bond Campaign Steering Committee and the Parent Advisory Board.

When board president Don Schlichte vacated the District 1 seat he had held for the past 16 years, Coleman decided to run.

She earned Schlichte’s endorsement and beat two competitors, Natalie Nicotine and Margretta Franklin, in the Feb. 7 election. Nicotine was a close second, trailing Coleman by only 29 votes.

Two incumbents also won re-election: Martha Janssen for District 3 and Catherine Cullen for District 5.

Coleman said she is thrilled to be serving RRPS, which she calls the best school system in New Mexico.

“Rio Rancho is such an incredible district and such a strong district,” Coleman said. “There are so many great teachers and staff.”

Her top priorities include attracting and retaining quality faculty, managing the tight budget and supporting college and career preparation programs such as dual-credit classes and vocational training.

In a questionnaire posted on her campaign Facebook page, Coleman also expressed concern about several controversial policies instituted by the New Mexico Public Education Department.

“The A—F (school and district) grading system is weighted towards school improvement, so that high-performing districts like ours are penalized, because there is not as much room for improvement,” she wrote. “The PARCC testing amounts to over-testing, as it has been added on top of our other testing already in place. … Finally, the teacher evaluation system, although its intentions are good, was simply mandated from the state, without input from our schools, and is underfunded and burdensome.”

Coleman told the Journal she believes RRPS should be “appropriately vocal” with PED by advocating for the district and questioning decisions.

“At this point, it has been my observation that there is not communication,” she said. “Everyone has to make efforts on both sides, whether it is teachers or us as parents and up in Santa Fe. We should get that interaction going more.”

Coleman said one of her strengths is big-picture thinking focused on the district’s best interests. During her campaign, she walked door to door to talk with constituents and learn more about their concerns.

“I thought it was really incredible,” she said. “I met a lot of people.”

Asked if she is planning to stick around for over a decade, like her predecessor, Coleman said she imagines she will stay involved with RRPS one way or another.

“The district, whatever you are, that’s the foundation,” she said. “It is vital to the community.”