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Former teacher offers ‘hope’ for RISD students

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Having been involved in education for over 10 years, Hope Morales plans to use her “voice and vote” to make changes for students as a member of the Roswell Independent School District’s board of education.

Hope Morales, RISD District 2 candidate

Named after her grandmother, Morales, 35, plans to embody her name and bring hope to RISD’s schools and students if elected to serve.

“ … I haven’t had the chance to prove myself as a school board member yet,” Morales said of her desire to improve equitable education at RISD. “And we can’t wait. We can’t hope that things are going to just get better. We need people in those roles to help make sure that we’re working toward that actively every single day. You can’t have hope without action.”

Morales is challenging District 2 incumbent Dr. Kathleen Pittman, who was Morales’ teacher, and both candidates are running for public office for the first time. Pittman, board secretary, was appointed to fill Nicole Austin’s seat in 2017. District 2 is in northwest Roswell, primarily west of Main Street and between Berrendo Road and West Second Street.

For more than two years now, Morales, 35, has been the state director for Teach Plus New Mexico. Before that, she taught at Mesa Middle School, Valley View Elementary and Military Heights Elementary schools, was a teacher on special assignment and has “strived to improve education through a variety of capacities,” she said. She considered running for school board when Austin stepped down.

Recently out of the classroom and established in her career, Morales said the time is right for her to serve as a fully committed school board member. From her experiences as an educator, she believes she is “equipped to be an effective board member” with a focus on the needs of students and also the community. She has signs up around town, as well as car decals, and Art Sandoval, former Roswell city councilor, is her campaign manager.

“In meeting more with my community and stakeholders, I’ve come to the conclusion and what I’ve been sharing with them is that I can either continue to advocate from the sidelines — or I can use my voice and vote as an elected school board member to fight for a quality educational system,” Morales said, and explained her professional commitment to Teach Plus NM will not conflict with her serving on the board.

As a former RISD student and Roswell High School graduate, Morales calls herself a “living example” of how education created an “opportunity” for her be successful as the first in her family to graduate with honors in high school and earn both a bachelor’s degree in university studies and a master’s degree in education administration from Eastern New Mexico University.

Her priorities if elected are to have “high quality” educators in each classroom; ensure that students and teachers have time, resources and tools for success; improve communication between the district, parents and guardians and community stakeholders; and to support student learning through accountability and high standards.

Morales said the strengths she will bring to the board are her strong work ethic, integrity, relationship-building skills, careful consideration of all matters and “passion” to work for students. Since she has high expectations that motivate her, Morales said she attempts to “solve many problems at once,” but is working to improve prioritizing and planning for multiple outcomes.

In light of perception surrounding the personnel restructuring at RISD this past spring, Morales said her belief as a “minority female leader” is supporting RISD’s “diverse community is essential.”

“I want to see our school district come together to advocate for our students,” Morales wrote in a statement. “Our students are the future of our community. It is our duty to ensure that our leaders, our board, our teachers, and our parents take an active role that is focused on student success and what is possible. We must hold each other accountable and not give excuses for things we might call ‘setbacks,’ but instead ask, ‘What now?’ It will take strong and dedicated leadership and I am ready to join the team.”

In the community, Morales is a member of the Roswell Sunrise Optimist Club and Delta Kappa Gamma in the Alpha Theta Chapter. She graduated from Leadership Roswell this year and is a Leadership Roswell board member. She has three children — two daughters at Military Heights Elementary School and one son at Goddard High School. She has no other family employed at or connected to RISD.

School board elections are nonpartisan. Both Republicans, Morales and Pittman announced their first run for public office at a Chaves County Federated Republican Women meeting this summer. The District 2 candidates also promoted their campaigns at the Eastern New Mexico State Fair parade last week.

Early voting begins today at the Chaves County Clerk’s office, absentee ballots can be mailed, and mail-in and online voter registration closes today as well. Election Day is Nov. 5.

The election for District 4, which is predominately south and east from South Virginia Avenue extending east beyond the Pecos River and covers south past YO Road, is also contested. Incumbent Ruben Sanchez, school board vice president, is challenged by Sergio Gonzalez and Hilda Sanchez.

The terms for the remaining board members — serving Districts 1, 3 and 5 — will expire in 2021, for Mona Kirk, Board President Alan Gedde and James Edwards. All five districts can be viewed online at risd.k12.nm.us/schoolboard/Roswell_Schools_Board_Districts_2012_Map_letter.pdf.

Special projects reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.