ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After the November 7 election, there will be some new faces guiding school policy across Albuquerque. Voters chose three new people to serve on the Albuquerque Public School Board of Education, so what are their views?
Three districts were up for grabs in the latest election. Those districts represent students attending Volcano Vista, Cibola High, Highland High, Atrisco Heritage, Rio Grande High and a range of elementary and middle schools.
One of the newly elected members, Ronalda K. Tome-Warito, is taking over for District 2 after defeating incumbent Peggy Muller-Aragón. Tome-Warito, a parent, has been involved with Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) since 2006. Tome-Warito brings a unique perspective, running to be the first Native American to serve on the APS board, and saying in a questionnaire, “I feel I can bring the community together to focus on the concerns of our school district, but the district has to allow the community in.”
Tome-Warito says the plan is to have “regular meetings with Legislators, precincts, organizations, unions, tribes, community members and students,” and Tome-Warito intends to help the school board better understand the ongoing challenges in educating Native American and special education students.
Another new addition to the school board is Heather Benavidez. She will represent District 4.
Benavidez has worked as a judge and has been leading a nonprofit advocating for those living with disabilities. In a questionnaire she said, “An uneducated populace is easier to control; therefore, public education is essential to a healthy democracy and must be protected.” She also noted that she will advocate for funding for local needs within schools.
Janelle Astorga is the final new face joining the school board. She won the race for District 1.
Astorga is a licensed substitute teacher and education assistant. She says she’s been active in parent-teacher groups and student-lead teacher training along with a range of other community work. She said in a questionnaire: “I have strong belief in the guardrails such as having wraparound services, but I also understand that plenty of work will have to be done in order to hire more staff at a functional capacity.” She also noted that equitable allocation of resources related to the budget is a key focus.
Two of the three new school board members (Tome and Benavidez) were endorsed by the Albuquerque Teachers Federation, a key union in the city. And the school board isn’t the only thing changing in local education – APS Superintendent Scott Elder is set to step down in 2024, and there’s an ongoing search for a new superintendent.