Q and A with all school board election candidates

Editor’s note: The Clovis Municipal School Board election in District 1 has five candidates. Max Best, Romardo Lopez, Frank Muscato, Bonnie Mendoza and Peter Zamie will vie for the seat in Tuesday’s election.

District 1 covers the city’s northeast portion.

Candidates were asked to respond to the following questions in about 75 words or less.

Name: R. Max Best
District: 1
Age: 49
Occupation: Attorney

Q: What is your motivation for running for election?

A: As a parent of two children in the school system it is important to me that they, and all of our children, have the best educational opportunities available to them. Also, as a businessman it is important to our city that we maintain a strong school system which helps us to attract new businesses and residents to our city.

Q: If elected, you will help select a superintendent. What qualities will you look for in a new superintendent?

A: It is important that our new superintendent have values and beliefs which fit in with our community. The new superintendent also must have educational administrative experience which is comparable to the requirements for our district. Further, he or she must have knowledge of our legislative and regulatory system in New Mexico which would enable them to develop a good working relationship with local legislators and state administrators.

Q: Board members are often required to analyze spending. How are you qualified to understand the federal, state and local funds that shape this school district?

A: I am qualified to understand and comprehend the complex funding formula that funds our schools here in New Mexico due to my experience in service in the governor’s office which required me to work with the State Legislature and its staff on a day-to-day basis. However, we need to understand that federal and state legislative changes occur frequently and as such the funding formula seems to constantly evolve and change.

Q: Federal and state mandates have emphasized the need for students to score well on tests. What as a board member can you do to assure administrators and teachers have the tools to help students meet state standards?

A: This is a great challenge for all school districts throughout the country. A lot of required testing today is basically an unfunded mandate by our state and federal authorities. While it is important that a board strongly advocates that a district receive all the resources it can to meet or exceed state and federal standards, we must allow our teachers the freedom and flexibility to do what they do best, that is, instruct our students in the important core subjects.

Q: What is your philosophy on education that you would like to convey to voters?

A: Simply put, in all aspects of policy and decision-making the best interest of the students should come first and foremost in my decision-making and the board’s decision-making process.

Q: If elected, what are weaknesses of Clovis schools you would like to help improve? How would you do that?

A: The weakness of our school system is the inability to serve students at all ends of the academic spectrum. We should be allocating resources so that both our poor and higher performing students improve and excel in the classroom and are equipped for future careers in the job marketplace or in higher education.

Q: What experiences related to the position would you bring to the district?

A: The experiences that I would bring to the office are first as a parent, next as a business and civic leader. My experience as general counsel to a prior governor in New Mexico would be helpful as I am experienced with the state legislative process and have a good working relationship with our area legislators. I also believe that my involvement in civic and community activities has enabled me to know and come to understand the values, beliefs and needs of our children, parents and our community.

Name: Peter P. Zamie
District: 1
Age: 60
Occupation: Civil engineer

Q: What is your motivation for running for election?

• Service to the community.
• To help provide the best possible learning environment for the children of Clovis.
• Ensure Clovis Municipal Schools maintains excellent academic standing.
• Civil engineering experience will help me provide a needed aspect to aid in the efficient functioning of the school board.

Q: If elected, you will help select a superintendent. What qualities will you look for in a new superintendent?

• The individual needs to be a “people person.”
• Experience both in the classroom and administration.
• Knowledge of and experience with the budget process.
• Practical knowledge of the state legislative process in regards to school funding and the ability to interact with the legislators.

Q: Board members are often required to analyze spending. How are you qualified to understand the federal, state and local funds that shape this school district?

• Experience with construction budgets averaging $15 million per year; responsible for $200 million Cannon realignment program in early 90s.
• Worked for the U.S. Air Force and understand federal government rules that have corollaries in state and local rules.
• Master’s degree in engineering.

Federal and state mandates have emphasized the need for students to score well on tests. What as a board member can you do to assure administrators and teachers have the tools to help students meet state standards?

• Understand state standards.
• Ensure curriculum is adequate.
• Encourage the superintendent to hire most qualified teachers.
• Encourage teachers to teach the course work and not necessarily just the answers — knowing the course information will ensure that students can score well on the achievement tests.

Q: What is your philosophy on education that you would like to convey to voters?

• It is important for every student to complete high school and the school district needs to encourage each individual in that regard.
• Parents, the schools and the school board need to work as a team to provide the best environment both at home and in the classroom to inspire students and instill the importance of obtaining a good education throughout their school years.

Q: If elected, what are weaknesses of Clovis schools you would like to help improve? How would you do that?

• While my daughters were in school I saw very few serious weaknesses.
• During my attendance at school board meetings for the past year plus I have noticed that the relationship among the team was strained and that the effectiveness of the board was not what I felt it could or should be.
• During presentations at a school board training session I attended, I learned that trust is an important need in any team environment; I would like to be a part of the new team and establish a winning relationship in order to provide the best learning environment for the children of Clovis.

Q: What experiences related to the position would you bring to the district?

• Professional civil engineer.
• Vast experience in facility maintenance, repair and construction.
• Participated in PAC, Clovis Municipal Schools strategic planning and Clovis High School site planning team.
• Attendance at school board meeting for over a year.
• Participated on an administrator evaluation team.

Name: Romardo “Mardo” Lopez
District: 1
Age: 45
Occupation: Past business owner of Luck-E-Dawg Kiddy Land and current Towne Talk Inc. properties manager

Q: What is your motivation for running for election?

A: My motivation for running for election is the idea that being a member of the school board allows me to have a direct impact on the quality of our school system and the quality of student life.

Q: If elected, you will help select a superintendent. What qualities will you look for in a new superintendent?

A: In my opinion the candidate should possess a will to work with the board and the community, someone who believes in teamwork. The superintendent should be able to adapt to the needs of our unique school system.

Q: Board members are often required to analyze spending. How are you qualified to understand the federal, state and local funds that shape this school district?

A: I am confident that I will be able to use the experience I have gained in my prior roles to do this part of the job well.

Q: Federal and state mandates have emphasized the need for students to score well on tests. What as a board member can you do to assure administrators and teachers have the tools to help students meet state standards?

A: We need to have good facilities, and up-to-date technology in order for our students to meet the state standards as well as open communication between administration and faculty.

Q: What is your philosophy on education that you would like to convey to voters?

Education is more than test scores. It’s about securing our children’s future. I feel that education starts at home where the foundation is created and that the schools should build upon that foundation.

Q: If elected, what are weaknesses of Clovis schools you would like to help improve? How would you do that?

A: A major weakness is that we have lost local decision-making abilities. To fix this problem we need to go to Santa Fe and lobby to get that back so decisions can be made here.

Q: What experiences related to the position would you bring to the district?

A: I managed a local business for sixteen years and worked closely with the schools. I had the opportunity to talk with many parents and teachers about their concerns. That insight gives me a unique advantage to make a difference that will really count.

Name: Frank R. Muscato
District: 1
Age: 73
Occupation: Retired restaurant owner

Q: What is your motivation for running for election?

A: I have been interested in our schools for many years. Due to business interests, time to devote to this position has been a factor. Since retiring from business, I now have the time.

Q: If elected, you will help select a superintendent. What qualities will you look for in a new superintendent?

A: • Educator — Must have been an educator to understand teachers.
• Legislator — Must be able to easily mingle with all parties. Securing state and federal funding is a must.
• Civic minded — Must be involved in the community.

Q: Board members are often required to analyze spending. How are you qualified to understand the federal, state and local funds that shape this school district?

A: Having been in business, I thoroughly understand budgets. Being a member of the district strategic planning for Clovis schools for the last three years, I understand the money we receive from state and federal sources.

Q: Federal and state mandates have emphasized the need for students to score well on tests. What as a board member can you do to assure administrators and teachers have the tools to help students meet state standards?

A: Meeting with district superintendent and superintendent of instruction, then we can address their needs.

Q: What is your philosophy on education that you would like to convey to voters?

A: Make sure we meet the needs of every child.

Q: If elected, what are weaknesses of Clovis schools you would like to help improve? How would you do that?

A: Overcrowding. All current buildings are full. More housing is being built every day.

Q: What experiences related to the position would you bring to the district?

A: Understanding all our children’s needs. I am currently on the PAC for Zia and Yucca Junior High, board of directors for Play Inc., CASA board of directors, Curry County Crime Stoppers board of directors and the Wildcats Booster Club.

Name: Bonnie Mendoza
District: District 1
Age: 37
Occupation: Co-owner of Guadalajara Cafe

Q: What is your motivation for running for election?

A: My motivation for seeking this responsibility is the importance of being involved in the future of our community and that of our kids. I have two children attending Clovis schools. I want no less for students throughout our school district than I want for my own two children; an education that is second to none.

Q: If elected, you will help select a school superintendent. What qualities will you look for in a new superintendent?

A: Excellent communication skills are extremely important. This person must develop a strong rapport among teachers, students, administrators and our community. This person should use leadership to involve teachers, parents, students and community members as equal partners when solving challenges and considering new ideas and to develop and achieve a vision for our school district that allows all children to become productive members of society.

This person must also be very knowledgeable in the area of school finance.

Q: Board members are often required to analyze spending. How are you qualified to understand the federal, state and local funds that shape this school district?

A: As a business owner, I understand the importance of developing and living within a budget. A school district must do the same when working with their budgets. I have a good understanding how local funds can be generated through SB9 and G.O. bond elections and the importance the SB9 election has on our ability to secure critical capital funding for building and remodeling projects. However, I would also need to attend training opportunities, whenever possible, to become better educated in this area.

Q: Federal and state mandates have emphasized the need for students to score well on tests. What as a board member can you do to assure administrators and teachers have the tools to help students meet state standards?

A: No Child Left Behind and New Mexico’s HB212 contained specific requirements for developing educational plans for students who did not exceed the minimum score on state mandated tests. As board members, we must provide teachers and administrators every available resource supported by research enabling our students to become proficient in a low performing area. We must also expect accountability for these resources and progress by our students and when we fail to accomplish this task, we should abandon the resource and seek other solutions.

Q: What is your philosophy on education that you would like to convey to voters?

A: We must identify very early the interests and abilities of our kids, so we can put together an academic program that provides opportunities to graduate and find success in their desired vocational or college setting. Successful organizations have a unique ability to use people within the organization to reinvent themselves to better accomplish their goals. We must better utilize our teachers, students, parents and community members and the knowledge and experience they possess if we want to achieve this task.

Q: If elected, what are weaknesses of Clovis schools you would like to help improve? How would you do that?

A: The comment among those I have talked to concerns low morale among district staff. I think a more open line of communication and mutual respect between the school administration, school board members, and the people they serve might help improve low morale. Teachers, students, parents and other must be made to feel comfortable in approaching school board members or administrators with ideas or concerns, without feeling like their job/education/children will be threatened because they have a different opinion.

Q: What experiences related to the position would you bring to the district?

A: I have been a member on the strategic planning committees for Clovis High School, Yucca Junior High and Zia Elementary. I have also been a member of the PAC at Sandia Elementary.

I am a supporter of and I am involved with many booster organizations. I have two children who attend elementary and junior high school in Clovis and I am a graduate of the Clovis schools, who used that education to continue a successful family business in our community.

Editor’s note: The Clovis Municipal School Board election in District 2 has two candidates. Lola Bryant and Rube Render will vie for the seat in the Feb. 1 election.

District 2 covers the city’s central portion.
Candidates were asked to respond to the following questions in about 75 words or less.

Name: Lola Bryant
District: 2
Age: 48
Occupation: Business owner

Q: What is your motivation for running for election?

A: My motivation comes from my love for all children and my desire to assure all their needs are being addressed and/or met. I would like to be a voice for the people, school staff and the students. I look forward to representing the Clovis schools.

Q: If elected, you will help select a superintendent. What qualities will you look for in a new superintendent?

A: The qualities I would look for in a superintendent would be an individual who demonstrates the ability to articulate a vision of educational excellence for all students and continue the strategic plan approved in 2001. Someone who will demonstrate abilities to advocate for the school district with governmental agencies, compete for grants, and continue our Long Range Facilities Plan. A person who has proven success as an educational leader and community builder in our culturally diverse community.

Q: Board members are often required to analyze spending. How are you qualified to understand the federal, state and local funds that shape this school district?

A: As a present board member, I have been involved in the decisions concerning the budget on all capital improvements and all current projects. Through Strategy No. 9 of the Clovis Municipal School District Strategic Plan, we have utilized a long-term capital improvement and facilities plan to help us achieve our mission and objectives. In all, $43.7 million has already been spent toward this plan. Through my involvement with the strategic planning process at both the school and district levels, I have been involved in the decision-making process for expending local, state and federal funds.

Q: Federal and state mandates have emphasized the need for students to score well on tests. What as a board member can you do to assure administrators and teachers have the tools to help students meet state standards?

A: I believe the implementations of site-based strategic planning at all school sites keeps the focus on student achievement. In addition, our annual budget process supports these academic goals at every school site. Improved performance on site-based and state-mandated assessments are proving to be a result of these efforts. I believe we should continue this process. This strategic process also includes professional development for teachers, which again is aimed at improving student achievement.

Q: What is your philosophy on education that you would like to convey to voters?

A: My philosophy is that we must never underestimate a child. We need to stand united in helping each one of our students to succeed. Every student has the potential to succeed if given the necessary tools and creative support needed. Every student should be encouraged and assisted to do their best. Character development is also important to everyone in the school as well as in the community. The six pillars of Character Counts clearly identify key moral strengths we should practice in our daily lives.

Q: If elected, what are weaknesses of Clovis schools you would like to help improve? How would you do that?

A: One weakness is the communication that currently exists between the school and parents. This area needs to be strengthened. I would personally support professional development that equips school staff and parents with the tools of effective communication.

Q: What experiences related to the position would you bring to the district?

• Board member for District 2 as of June 2.
• Attended New Mexico School Board Association Law Conference
• Attended two board workshops
• Bilingual (English/Spanish)
• PAC Committee member
• 1998 member of the Action Team for Marshall Junior High School
• 1999 member of Marshall Junior High’s site-based Strategic Planning Committee
• 2000-02 member of Clovis Municipal Schools Strategic Planning Team
• Participant in the Family Leadership Institute, which provides ongoing training for parents to equip them to be leaders in education for their families.

Name: R. L. “Rube” Render
District: Two
Age: 62
Occupation: Retired program manager (Lockheed Martin), Retired U. S. Marine Gunnery Sergeant

Q: What is your motivation for running for election?

A: First, the most important job the school board performs is the hiring of a superintendent. My experience as a hiring manager in the workforce and my formal education that includes a master’s degree in human resource management will be an asset in this process. Second, I remain convinced the solution to many problems we face as a society begins with a sound K through 12 learning foundation.

Q: If elected, you will help select a school superintendent. What qualities will you look for in a new superintendent?

A: Not only should the superintendent have experience as a school administrator, he should have both written and oral communication skills. He should further be familiar with the legislative process as it involves education and be prepared to establish a good working relationship with state government at all levels. This includes Clovis’ members of the state Legislature, the secretary of education and the Public Education Commission (and our representative to the PEC).

Q: Board members are often required to analyze spending. How are you qualified to understand the federal, state and local funds that shape this school district?

A: The Clovis schools budget is approximately $70 million. Roughly $43 million of that comes from the state and is the operational component of the budget. Bond issues (including the S.B. 9 issue on the current ballot) provide money for capitol expenditures. There is also some federal funding available that is mainly “flow through” money included in funding from the state. Money in the form of grants from various entities is also available. The money that funds the H.O.S.T.S. (Helping One Student To Succeed) program at James Bickley, for example, is a grant.

Q: Federal and state mandates have emphasized the need for students to score well on tests. What as a board member can you do to assure administrators and teachers have the tools to help students meet state standards?

A: The assistant superintendent for instruction regularly reports on proposed improvements to the school curriculum at board meetings. As a board member it is important to closely monitor all suggested changes and discuss any concerns in open board meetings. Board members must listen to and rely on the professional educators, teachers and administrators in the district for expert advice on matters relating to educational standards.

Q: What is your philosophy on education that you would like to convey to voters?

A: Our children are our future. It is our duty to provide them with the best education possible. I am an exponent of educational standard as reflected in the adage: “A sound mind in a sound body.” To facilitate this philosophy, both I and my wife work as H.O.S.T.S. volunteers in the James Bickley School. No child, or teacher for that matter, should be afraid to attend school. The education system should prepare students to enter society as productive, thinking citizens.

Q: If elected, what are weaknesses of Clovis schools you would like to help improve? How would you do that?

A: James Bickley Elementary has a reading program called H.O.S.T.S. At one time this program was in all the Clovis schools. I think that Interim Superintendent G.C. Ross was instrumental in helping bring this program to Clovis. I have seen this one-on-one reading program produce improved student reading skills. I would like to see this program re-instituted in all the Clovis schools. Reading and the ability to comprehend what you read is absolutely essential to any successful journey through life.

Q: What experiences related to the position would you bring to the district?

A: In addition to the formal education and management experience listed above, I have been a manager of technical education. As such I am familiar with needs assessments, developing course curriculum, creating learning objectives and preparing lesson plans. I have also been responsible for administering budgets in the range of $50 million to $100 million while managing various programs. In addition, I have an excellent working relationship with the state legislators from Clovis and Curry County, including our representative to the Public Education Commission.

— Compiled by CNJ Staff Writer Ryan Lengerich