Hotchkiss on paid leave, BHS hiring

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Belen High School is finishing off the remaining seven weeks in the school year with a new set of administrators.

Last week, three high school administrators were named co-principals to take charge of the school after Principal Chris Hotchkiss was placed on administrative leave.

Superintendent Ron Marquez assigned assistant principals Joann Carter and Manuel Lucero and athletic director Rodney Wright to the positions.

Hotchkiss was placed on administrative leave March 21 after Marquez informed him his contract wouldn't be renewed for the 2013-14 school year.

"The superintendent decided to go in another direction for principalship," Hotchkiss said. "It's normal for them to place the outgoing administrator on administrative leave while searching for a new principal."

Marquez made this decision after completing Hotchkiss' yearly evaluation and wouldn't delve into why calling it a personnel matter.

When Marquez spoke with Hotchkiss about finishing off the year, the second-year principal's response to the superintendent was that he didn't want to remain in the position.

"I'm going to honor that and we are going to move forward," Marquez said.

Hotchkiss will remain on leave for the remainder of his year-long contract, which ends June 30.

The campus administrative position was posted as an employment opportunity six days later on the district's website. Applicants have until April 15 to apply for the full-time principal position, which earns a salary of $80,000.

To apply, interested parties must have a master's degree, a minimum of five years of administrative experience in a high school or as principal of a middle school and a resident of Belen or surrounding areas or the willingness to relocate.

Preliminary screenings will be completed by two administrators and three high school teachers before Marquez will conduct the final round of interviews.

"We don't want to just put in a body," Marquez said. "We want to put somebody who wants to be in BHS and willing to take the school forward."

He estimates to have a principal chosen by the end of May.

The high school was in a similar situation two years ago when former high school principal Leslie Kilmer was placed on administrative leave after being notified her contract would not be renewed.

"I'm confident these teachers can pull together," Marquez said. "It sounds like a coaching cliché, but when the going gets tough, the tough get going and BHS staff will pull together and help out with that."

The transition has gone on "without an itch" with teachers and students pitching in to help each other where they can, Lucero said.

"I feel the reason why we will be able to have a successful rest of the year is the strength of our staff and students and how its a true united type of environment where everyone seems to be willing to lend a hand to get to the next level," he said.

With staff evaluations, prom and graduation around the corner, the co-principals are aiming to finish the school year on a positive note, Wright said.

As a team, the three meet every day to review progress on school-wide projects while trying to incorporate "as many stake holders into the decisions" as they can, Lucero said.

"One of the things we've done is to truly listen to them and really try to take their input and really try to make decisions that are in the best interest of the students and school staff," he said.

Hotchkiss is searching for employment opportunities as an administrator. He said he "really enjoyed" his time in a "wonderful place" like Belen, calling the kids "great" and saying the school is "wonderful."


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.