Public Meets Superintendent Finalists

by Staff Reporter / Jun 09, 2017 / comments
Finalist candidates for the position of superintendent speak to the public at an open forum Thursday evening on the NNMC campus. From left to right is Art Blea, Bobbie Gutierrez and Robert Stannard. Valley Daily Post photo

Public Meets Superintendent Finalists

Staff Report

In what the Española Public School District describes as one of the most transparent employee recruitment efforts in recent years, the school board and search committee took one of the final steps in naming a new superintendent Thursday evening at a public forum on Northern New Mexico College’s campus.

Four of the Espanola Valley Public School District school board attended the public forum Thursday, taking notes and listening to the three candidates. Valley Daily Post photo

The search process began in April when the school district created an eleven-member superintendent search committee made up of community members, school district employees, tribal representatives and student parents. The position of superintendent was advertised locally, around the state and nationally. In the end, twelve applicants put their name forward and submitted full applications. Acting Superintendent Denise Johnston explained to community members at Thursday’s event, that the search committee used a rubric to assess all the candidates and score them. The candidates were then whittled down and on Wednesday the search committee and School Board interviewed the three finalists.

Acting Superintendent Denise Johnston welcomed community members to the event Thursday and explained the agenda before turning the podium over to Joe Guillen who served as teh MC and is a member of the Search Committee. Valley Daily Post photo 

On Thursday evening those same finalists were presented to the public and community in an open forum at the Nick Salazar auditorium at Northern New Mexico College. Around 50 community members attended and submitted questions to the candidates on notecards. The candidates then spent the next two hours answering dozens of questions that the community had submitted on note cards. At the end of the day community members turned in their assessment sheets on which they ranked the candidates and wrote opinions. Johnston said the board and search committee would review the assessments before making a final decision.

The search committee’s finalists included both fresh and familiar faces. The finalists include:

Art Blea, who served as superintendent in both Española and Pojoaque. When asked why he would be the best choice Blea spoke to his long experience in the valley, moving to the area in 1973 where he and his wife worked for over two decades in area schools. He also stressed that the loss of students to other districts is a symptom of parents perception that the other school districts offer a better education. Blea said that in 1973 there were 6,000 students in the Española district and today only 3,800. He said there are no easy fixes, but wants to work on ways to address the teacher shortage and pay attention to the time that students spend in school actually working on academics. 

Bobbie Gutierrez served as Santa Fe superintendent for four years and one year at Española. Gutierrez was forced to resign in May 2016 over her firing of EVHS basketball coach Eric Martinez. Gutierrez spoke about her original plan to only stay in Española for a brief period but said she fell in love with the community and students, and that she feels she was taken away from the district before she was done. When asked how to help turn around the district, Gutierrez stressed the need for stability and that the school board should consider how to establish stability and select a superintendent who will stay with the district for three or more years.

Robert Stannard is a new face to the valley, coming out of the Denver area. Stannard is in his second career after leaving engineering for education and currently serves as the Director of a technical school called Education at Wings Over the Rockies. Prior to that role he was superintendent at Yuma 1 School District in Colorado, a district he describes as having similar challenges to Española. Stannard described himself to the audience as a driven leader with extensive experience as a turn-around expert, reforming schools and businesses.

The school board will take up the issue Friday afternoon at a special school board meeting and vote to select a final candidate who will be invited for one last interview on Monday. If all goes as planned school board members hope to have a new superintendent named by early next week.

Finalists Robert Stannard and Bobbie Gutierrez chatting before the forum begins outside the auditorium on NNMC campus. Valley Daily Post photo

Finalist Art Blea talks with  Acting Superintendent Denise Johnston at the forum Thursday evening. Valley Daily Post photo