Chavez resigns from Belen Board of Education; Marquez to stay

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When the gavel was struck to adjourn Tuesday’s special meeting of the Belen Board of Education, the district kept a superintendent but lost another long-time board member.

Sam Chavez: Resigning from board

“When I strike this gavel, it will be for the last time,” Board President Sam Chavez told the two-dozen plus people in attendance. “I am resigning from the board.”

Chavez said his decision was due to personal commitments and other obligations he has to attend to.

“I’ve had an 11-year run. I have been here, working diligently for the children of the district,” he said. “And frankly, I’m tired.”

Chavez is the second board member to resign in the last three months. After serving for 13 years on the board, Adrian Pino, the board’s vice president, resigned in November. He was replaced by Larry Garley.

In an interview the morning after the meeting, Chavez said his announcement probably took most everyone there by surprise.

“I hadn’t let anybody know,” he said. “I really felt like I needed to leave the district in the best condition I could. I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time and the timing was right.”

Chavez, who was elected to his third term in 2011, said the district has been working hard the last several years to get the finances in order. That included cleaning up audit findings, re-establishing the district’s credit rating to sell bonds and getting some major projects off the ground, such as a swimming complex and a new building for the Family School.

The former board president also numbers among his accomplishments the renewal of Superintendent Ron Marquez’ contract for another year. The lone action item on the agenda for Tuesday’s special meeting was consideration of the superintendent’s contract.

Chavez broke the tie vote, throwing his support behind Marquez. Chavez, along with board members Larry Lindberg and Lola Quintana voted to approve the contract, while members Larry Garley and Lorraine Espinoza voted against.

“Rehiring Mr. Marquez, I seriously think he’s by far the best man for the job,” Chavez said. “I made a commitment to do the best job possible and I did. I really feel I left the district in the best shape possible, and putting Ron Marquez in for one more year, he will keep moving the district forward in the next year.”

During his 11 years on the board, there are several accomplishments he is proud of.

“I came on the board advocating for alternative education. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — not every student will go on to college, but everyone deserves a chance to succeed,” he said. “And that’s where the vocational programs at the Career Academy come in. We need to keep kids engaged, give them the opportunity to succeed.”

Chavez said building Infinity High School and improving the Family School offers students more avenues to education.

“It is giving kids the best opportunities that we can expose them to,” he said. “A lot of these guys need some kind of push for a career.”

The district’s improvements to its athletic facilities are also a point of pride for Chavez.

“The sporting facilities are a big impetus for some kids to remain in school,” he said. “If they are more actively involved, the more likely they are to stay in school.”

And the construction of a swimming complex at Belen High School will not only expand the students’ athletic opportunities, it will benefit the community at well, Chavez said.

With many things accomplished and the district in a good position, Chavez said he now wants to take time to focus on his family.

“This job takes a lot of time; the last six months especially,” Chavez said, adding the morning of the board meeting, his doctor told him knee surgery was in his future.

“You know everything just kind of aligned (Tuesday). I felt like I had gotten my goals accomplished, the district was in a good place and I just thought, ‘That’s it — it’s time,’” Chavez said.

The board has 45 days to appoint a replacement who lives in District 2 to fill the vacant seat.

Chavez was in the final year of his term, so his seat is up for election next February.

Quintana and Lindberg’s seats will be up for grabs, and the seat held by Garley will also be up for election, since he was a midterm replacement for Pino.


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