Belen Board of Education extends superintendent's contract; concerns

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The Belen Board of Education voted 3-2 to extend the superintendent's contract for one more year.

Superintendent Ron Marquez will serve his third year as superintendent for the 2013-14 school year, beginning July 1.

"I'm excited to be given another year, but at the same time I did pay attention to the board's concerns and I can tell you that those concerns will be addressed," Marquez said.

Board members Larry Lindberg and Lorraine Espinosa voted nay to renew Marquez's contract for another year during the board's Feb. 12 meeting.

Lindberg voted not to extend Marquez's contract due to the grades Belen Schools received in New Mexico's A-F School Grading System in July 2012 by the New Mexico Public Education Department.

"Our schools are not measuring up the way they should be, in my opinion," Lindberg said. "We had one A, one B and the rest of them were Cs and Ds. The fact that we had six Ds, that's just unacceptable."

From weekly schools visits, Lindberg said he can see where teachers and staff are working hard to improve, but he's still left scratching his head, wondering why the district isn't doing better.

"My major reason was our (superintendent) has had two years and the academic achievement hasn't improved sufficiently really," he said.

However, Marquez said these grades reflect the previous administration, not his.

Espinosa's conscious wouldn't let her vote for the extension when the morale of teachers and staff "isn't good at this time," she said.

She contributes low morale to the superintendent giving certain employees a raise in August, which Espinosa learned about when employees called her.

The board approved the salary increases as part of a budget adjustment, but Espinosa said she had no idea it was for raises.

The adjustment passed after the New Mexico Public Education Department rejected the district's 2012-13 budget due to a 1 percent employee salary increase, which was later removed.

Marquez said these were contract adjustments given as compensation to administrative support staff in booking whose work load increased and were completing the job of two employees.

Espinosa said the district has lost quality teachers and students to other districts due to the low morale, not being listened to or supported and not having concerns addressed by the superintendent or administrators.

"We, as a district, need to work on the continuity of listening to our employees, asking what we can do to support them and help them educate our students, because they are the ones that have a lot on their plate," she said.

"If you have unhappy employees that are doing the best they can to educate our students, it's going to trickle down to the kids."

Marquez disagrees that the morale is low and said some of the things that are bringing morale down are out of the superintendent's control, such as an increase in contribution to New Mexico's Educational Retirement Board pension program and the payroll tax increase.

But Marquez said these concerns should be discussed "in private only" since they are part of his employee evaluation.

Although these issues, along with others, were brought up as concerns in executive session, Board President R. Sam Chavez said he didn't believe any of them warranted a new superintendent.

"During the evaluation, we obviously did point out areas where we would like to see him improve upon, and he's said he's going to work diligently in those areas," Chavez said.

Marquez might not be doing everything right, but the district is still moving forward, said Board member Adrian Pino

"I think he's been doing a good job and he's got a little bit of things to do to make it better, but what district doesn't," Pino said.

Board member Dolores Lola Quintana couldn't be reached for comment before News-Bulletin press time.


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