Superintendent candidates for Espanola schools field residents’ questions

ESPANOLA, N.M. (KRQE) – After a troubled history of choosing and losing superintendents, one New Mexico school district says it’s trying to be transparent this time, to pick a superintendent they hope will stick around for the long haul.

There are also former superintendents trying to get their jobs back.

The Espanola community came out to Northern New Mexico College on Thursday where the public got a chance to ask questions of the three finalists vying for the superintendent position.

“It was a great opportunity for our community to see who our candidates were. Normally we’re not that transparent around here,” said parent Joe Sena.

“The community does have a lot of questions. This school district has gone through a lot of turmoil over the last couple years and we want change. The community wants change,” said parent Nicole Vigil.

A moderator asked questions that people submitted as the Espanola School Board readies to select its next superintendent.

The board president says the district has been through seven superintendents in the last six years. He says this time a committee of community members narrowed it down to three candidates.

One is Bobbie Gutierrez, a former Espanola superintendent who resigned after a controversial move to fire head basketball coach Richard Martinez.

Video showed Martinez leading his players in prayer. He was later accused of bullying students.

Another finalist is former Espanola superintendent Arthur Blea, and the third is Robert Stannard, a candidate from Colorado.

Thursday night, they discussed problems the district is facing, and how to turn things around.

“Parents feel their kids can get better education in some of these other districts, we can’t sugarcoat that,” said superintendent candidate Arthur Blea.

“It’s very difficult to recruit high quality teachers where there’s constant changes with the leadership,” said candidate Bobbie Gutierrez.

“This is all going to be fixed. It will all soon be a memory whether you choose me or you choose the other two fine candidates, this district is on the rebound. It’s gonna be fine,” said candidate Robert Stannard.

In a special meeting Friday, the board is expected to announce its decision for the superintendent position. That finalist will then have one more interview with the school board before the contract is completed, according to the board president.

Last week, the school board admitted it accidentally violated the state’s open meetings act. The board met behind closed doors to conduct candidate interviews, but didn’t post a formal letter to notify the public. They caught the mistake mid-way through, stopped, and re-did the interviews this week.

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