The Pojoaque Valley School District Board announced Feb. 12 four finalists to become the District’s new superintendent.

The Board met in executive session for nearly an hour, whittling down the 11 people who applied and met the Board’s qualifications.

Those selected as finalists are Sondra Adams, Pojoaque’s acting superintendent; Greg Rockhold, assistant principal of Heizer Middle School in Hobbs; Douglas Clauschee, former associate superintendent of Chinle School District in Arizona; and Justina Montoya, former executive director of the now-closed La Resolana Leadership Academy in Albuquerque.

School Board President Jon Paul Romero said he could not say why each specific finalist was chosen, but that they all me the Board’s qualifications.

“We all felt that the top four were the best out of the candidates that made the shortlist,” he said.

Candidates had to meet three mandatory qualifications set by the Board: a master’s degree in an unspecified field, five years experience in school administration and a New Mexico superintendent’s license. All four finalists had these qualifications.

Adams said in a Feb. 13 phone interview that serving as associate superintendent for the District has prepared her to create real change in Pojoaque.

“I have a really good feel for what our teachers need, what our students and what we need to do to move forward,” she said.

She said that, if selected, she will continue to implement an assessment program to measure the success level of each student and identify those requiring assistance.

“We need to be smart about our instruction,” she said.

Clauschee served in various administrative roles in Chinle since 2000, including associate superintendent and principal. He recently left the district after 28 years, while the resume in his application stated he still worked for the district. He said he left his position three weeks after submitting his application.

Clauschee, a member of the Navajo Nation who grew up in Albuquerque, said he is interested in improving the equity of education among students, especially indigenous students.

“The real challenge is closing the achievement gap, making education equitable for all persons of any race,” he said. “I think that’s where it needs to begin.”

Montoya spent much of her recent career serving as executive director of the charter school La Resolana Leadership Academy, which she helped establish in 2006.

While Montoya has never served as an administrator at a public school district, she said the skills she obtained at the charter school are transferable and that she could handle running a district with thousands more students.

“I don’t believe it’s the number of kids in a district that makes it more difficult to run,” she said. “I think that I could easily handle that challenge.”

La Resolana reportedly closed after Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) decided to not renew its charted. It had to establish a corrective action plan for special education, after it was found the school was not submitting special education data and violating federal law. The school, at one point, was also $200,000 in debt after moving locations.

Montoya said the closure was a political decision made by the Albuquerque School Board, not because of any violations the school committed.

“Our school was vulnerable to APS politics and that’s why it’s closed,” she said. “It had nothing to do with the quality of the school.”

Rockhold has previously applied for superintendent at several districts across the state, including Dolores, Belen and even the Española School District, which is still searching for a replacement for Bobbie Gutierrez. He cited local politics as the cause behind his lack of success in previous applications.

“A lot of places have already been pre-selected,” he said. “You throw your name in the hat and see if you catch something.”

He said he believes his experience working with indigenous students in Alaska and New Mexico makes him qualified for the Pojoaque position, and said he would establish a good-working relationship with the Pueblo of Pojoaque.

“(Native education) is a very exciting arena, as long as one is willing to listen,” Rockhold said.

Romero said he did not do any outside research of the candidates prior to selecting finalists, primarily using information provided in application materials. He said will do more research before finalists are interviewed.

Those interviews will take place on Feb. 29, where two committees of school personnel and community members will conduct public interviews of each candidate. The Board will then conduct their own interviews in a closed session. The first interviews are expected to begin around 8 a.m., although an official schedule has yet to be released.

Romero said the Board’s choice for superintendent will be announced sometime in early March.

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