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School board vice president campaigns to serve kids

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Reporter’s note: This article has been updated to clarify voting numbers for the Feb. 4, 2015, Roswell Independent School District’s school board election. 

In a three-way race, Ruben Sanchez is vying for his current District 4 seat on the Roswell Independent School District’s (RISD) school board.

Ruben Sanchez RISD District 4 incumbent

A born and raised Roswellite, Sanchez said he comes from a long line of RISD educators and has “deep roots” in District 4. His wife and two sisters-in-law teach in the district and his son and daughter, as well as a niece and nephew, attend RISD schools. His mother is a retired RISD educator of 32 years and his grandparents were also RISD educators.

District 4 is predominantly south and east from South Virginia Avenue extending east beyond the Pecos River and covers south past YO Road.

For his first run for public office, Sanchez, 39, was elected to the school board in 2015 and defeated Pauline Ponce with 179-163 votes. Ponce, school board president at that time, had a two-vote margin advantage over Sanchez in early and absentee voting before the election. He said his first term has been a learning experience and he plans to continue this learning in a second term.

With his time on the board, Sanchez has learned the importance of the board to work together to make decisions that will impact students and RISD employees. He has served as a board member, secretary and was elected by the board twice to be vice president.

“I have passion for the success of kids,” Sanchez said. “I think that’s most important when it comes to anybody wanting to run for the school board. Kids — they’re always the number one priority — no matter what.”

“Kids First” is Sanchez’s slogan and Angel Mayes is his campaign manager. He said the purpose of being a board member is to make decisions for students to be successful, have access to needed educational resources, and to ensure students are happy and proud to be from Roswell.

He says having a “dog in the fight” with his family members that are also educators gives him all the more reason to want to serve a school board member. Filling in gaps for the bilingual programs is important to Sanchez. His own wife, Cynthia Sanchez, is a fourth grade teacher, with bilingual and teaching English as a second language endorsements at East Grand Plains Elementary School.

If re-elected, Sanchez said he will prioritize retaining and valuing quality teachers at RISD.

“Another thing is making sure that their morale is high,” Sanchez said. “If we have teachers with low morale, we’re going to lose people and we don’t want to do that. So it’s finding methods to make sure our teachers feel that they’re important, and they’re wanted, and they’re valued.”

Some of his other priorities are to improve communication and accountability district-wide, to promote providing “equity and equality” throughout all RISD schools and programs and continue to have high expectations for RISD students from pre-K to eventual graduates.

“Walking across a stage and waving at loved ones at the end of the year, and even shedding a few tears in the arms of someone that you love is life-changing,” Sanchez said. “Holding an earned diploma in your hands and having the opportunity to move the tassel from left to right opens so many doors for our young men and women. We need to make that a priority. We need to keep that a priority.

“Having kids graduate is the ultimate goal of every teacher — ensuring that they’re ready for the world when they cross that stage, ensuring that they’re ready for college, making sure they’re ready for the military, or making sure that they’re ready for the workforce. The ultimate goal is to make sure that each individual kid that graduates becomes a valued part of the community and sometimes you want them to leave. You want them to experience the world. You want them to get a great education and you want them to share that with the world, but you also want them, at the end of the day, to come back to Roswell and share that experience with us, too — and make our community a better place to live.”

In valuing teachers and staff, Sanchez wants constituents to understand the restructuring decisions in the spring “made for the betterment of children and nothing more.” Letting RISD staff know they are important extends to district educational associates, support, cafeteria and maintenance staff.

For his own educational background, Sanchez attended East Grand Plains Elementary and graduated from Dexter High School in 1999. He also attended some college at Eastern New Mexico University and University of New Mexico. Sanchez joined the U.S. Air Force in 2001 to be a military police officer. He did his basic training and graduated from the police academy at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

Following this, he was stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque in 2001. During his new airmen orientation, Sanchez said it was a life-changing experience to see the Twin Towers fall on 9/11. Until 2007, he was active duty for six years where he was deployed overseas in 2004 and later on, closed to be an adjunct combat arms instructor.

He received education from the Department of Energy instructor course. Eventually, he was hired by the Department of Defense as a civilian and transferred to the Department of Interior with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 2008. Currently, he is a full-time employee as an assistant field manager for the lands and minerals division for BLM, where he manages oil and gas and energy development in southeast New Mexico. From this, he said it is a “blessing” to understand how oil and gas comes from the field and up to funding education statewide and how he can give guidance for financial decisions.

“Number one is I have a servant’s heart,” Sanchez said. “I think you can see (that) with my background in the military and now my career with the federal government. I’ve always been a public servant and I want to continue to do that. …” He believes his military education and training, as well as working for the federal government is an asset to being on the school board. He lists his values, “integrity,” “passion” for the success of students and being an effective leader as some of his other strengths.

School board elections are nonpartisan. Republican candidates Sanchez, District 2 incumbent Dr. Kathleen Pittman and District 2 challenger Hope Morales all announced over the summer at a Chaves County Federated Republican Women’s monthly luncheon.

Early voting began Oct. 8 at the Chaves County Clerk’s Office and Election Day is Nov. 5. Hilda Sanchez and Sergio Gonzalez are challenging this District 4 seat. 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.