Taos County school candidates make final push before Feb. 5

Candidates for the Taos Municipal School Board highlighted their ideas, plans and qualifications Jan. 24 as the brief campaign season winds down.

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Candidates for the Taos Municipal School Board highlighted their ideas, plans and qualifications Jan. 24 as the brief campaign season winds down.

Those vying for two seats on the five-member board addressed a full Kit Carson Electric Cooperative board room during a forum co-sponsored by The Taos News and Taos County Chamber of Commerce. The five candidates running in Districts 3 and 5 faced questions about improving school performance, evaluating a superintendent and keeping students safe, among others. Candidates also had opportunities to circulate campaign literature and greet voters in the days leading up to the Feb. 5 election.

In District 3, Denise Walker emphasized her community involvement and experience in Taos’ public schools over the past two decades. Walker said her grandchildren attend Taos schools, and she is actively involved in a number of community and school groups, including the Fraternal Order of Eagles, Taos Tiger Athletic Boosters and others. She said it is critical that the school district intervene early to ensure young students have the skills they need to succeed later on.

“We have to get these kids back to the basics,” she said.

Mark Flores, also running in District 3, said his experience managing employees and a $1.5 million budget at Taos County, where he serves as facilities management director, has prepared him well for the responsibilities of the school board. Flores said if elected he would work to see that graduation rates improve and students leave the public school system with a good foundation for the future. He said his family values education, and he is “very involved” with his two children, who attend Taos public schools.

Israel Padilla, Kristen Torres and James Sanborn — all parents of current or former students in the district — are running in District 5. They all spoke to their ongoing involvement in Taos schools, Padilla in athletics and with school facilities, Torres as a speech pathologist and Sanborn as a member of Anansi Charter School’s governing board. They also shared an interest in accountability and goal-setting to ensure the continual improvement of the district.

Torres in particular emphasized the importance of setting goals and allocating resources accordingly. She said the board would have to work together to set goals for the district, but she suggested working to increase grade-level targets, graduation rates and the performance of the lowest-performing students.

Sanborn spoke to his experience on the Anansi Charter School board and said if elected he would be a “progressive voice for Taos schools.”

Yes for Kids, an educationally involved community group, announced its endorsement of Flores and Sanborn earlier this month.

Taos Federation of United School Employees (TFUSE) representative Orion Cervio attended the forum and said he was pleased with the field of candidates.

“This is an impressive, exciting and insightful field of candidates,” he said. “TFUSE looks forward to using interest-based problem-solving methods to work closely together with whomever the community elects to office.”

Following redistricting in Taos in response to the 2010 Census, District 3 now contains precincts 17 and 34. District 5 comprises precincts 8-11.

Questa and Peñasco will hold at-large elections for board candidates. In Questa, Rosaline Ortega and Paul Martínez are running for Position 2, Jose Lovato and Mathew Ortega for Position 4, Joel Flory for Position 5 and Daryl Ortega, David Zimmerman and Bernie Torres for Position 6. In Peñasco, Juliet García-Gonzales and Norma Gonzales are running for Position 1, while Mary Mascareñas and Audrey Medina are running unopposed for Positions 2 and 3, respectively.

Voters county-wide, including those who reside in Taos districts 1, 2 and 4, will also decide Feb. 5 whether to re-impose a two-mill levy to be used for capital projects, such as facilities, technology and activity buses. Charter schools would also receive funding proportionate to their student populations.

Early voting is available at the Taos County Clerk’s office through Friday (Feb. 1). Polls will be open Feb. 5 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The county Bureau of Elections can be reached at (575) 737-6400.

See Pages A4, A6, and A12, for questionnaires completed by Questa school board candidates. See Pages B10 and B11, for those completed by Peñasco candidates.

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