Three candidates vying for the position of Pojoaque Valley School District superintendent faced public interviews with two separate committees before their final interview on Wednesday (3/4).
Sondra Adams, Justina Montoya and Doug Clauschee met with two separate interviewing committees, with one consisting of District personnel and the other of local community members.
Interviews were open to the public, although no community members attended.
Committee members asked candidates about the various ways they would improve the academic performance, fiscal standing and community relations of the District.
In an interview with staff members, Adams—who currently serves as interim superintendent in Pojoaque—said one thing she one of her top goals is setting clear expectations for all District personnel and holding people accountable when expectations are not met.
“It comes back to laying down expectations and following those,” she said. “It’s easier to let it slide when you don’t have it laid out.”
She said the best way to lay out expectations is to reevaluate the District’s policies. She said she completed a formal review of all policies and was concerned by what she found.
“There are a lot of contradictions that we need to work on,” Adams said. “When you have contradictions, how do you follow those?”
She said training and oversight are needed for all employees, specifically custodians and maintenance staff.
Adams took over superintendent duties in the interim after previous superintendent Melville Morgan abruptly resigned in August. In his resignation letter, Morgan did not list a specific reason for leaving the District.
Also interviewed was Doug Clauschee, who until recently served as associate superintendent of Chinle School District in Arizona.
While talking with the community members committee, Clauschee touted his experience working with diverse student populations as one of his main strengths. The District consists of 70 percent Hispanic and 20 percent indigenous students.
“I feel like this is a perfect opportunity to implement things I know work with diverse populations of students,” he said.
Clauschee, a member of the Navajo Nation, said connections need to be established with tribal governments and communities to combat the intergenerational damage left by colonization.
“Native Americans have a great mistrust of the (United States) education system,” he said. “So how do we combat that 14 generations later with our students? We have to build trust with our community and the schools.”
When members of the committee told him many people in Pojoaque did not know a superintendent search was taking place, Clauschee said it was “absurd” that community members were not made aware.
The final candidate was Justina Montoya, who served as executive director of the now-closed La Resolana Leadership Academy in Albuquerque.
She said one of her main goals as superintendent would be to ensure students had enough resources to succeed.
“The whole purpose of education is to make sure students have exactly what they need so that they can be competitive,” she said.
When asked for examples, Montoya said she once refused a pay bonus offered by the Academy’s board, a portion of which she eventually accepted.
Mark LeDoux, one of the members of the community member committee, said in between interviews that he was concerned by Montoya’s lack of administrative experience, since La Resolana only served middle school students.
The Pojoaque Valley School Board selected four finalists to be interviewed Feb. 12. The fourth candidate, Greg Rockhold of Heizer Middle School in Hobbs, withdrew his application at the last second due to a family matter, Consultant Hugh Prather said.
Members of both committees submitted written reviews of each candidate, which will then be reviewed by the Board.
The Board was expected to announce the new superintendent on Wednesday (3/4), according to the meeting agenda.