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Dexter panel interviews superintendent candidates

The Dexter Consolidated Schools District Board of Education intends to announce its decision about a new superintendent during its April 12 meeting, board president James Salas said. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Four people have been selected as finalists for superintendent of the Dexter Consolidated Schools District. 

The finalists met Saturday for in-person interviews at the district central office with about 20 people on the interview panel. The panel included Board of Education elected officials, community members and district leadership and teachers, said James Salas, board president.

“We will announce our decision at our April 12 meeting, when we have our regular board meeting,” Salas said.

The finalists are all New Mexico public school educators. They are Elisa Begueria, superintendent of Lake Arthur Municipal Schools; Heather Garner, Dexter High School principal; John Maldonado, a principal and programs director with Mora Independent Schools; and Miles Mitchell, a high school teacher and advisor with Artesia Public Schools.

Salas said the goal is to have the new superintendent in place on or after July 1. The contract for the current superintendent, Lesa Dodd, runs until June 30.

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Dodd provided board members with her resignation letter during the group’s November meeting. She announced that she would retire at the end of her contract, which will be about a month after the academic year is scheduled to end for Dexter students.

According to her letter, Dodd has been a public school educator for about 30 years and with the Dexter district since 1996. She was a high school teacher with the district for 10 years and the Dexter Middle School principal for seven years before taking the superintendent position about eight years ago.

“Obviously, Lesa (Dodd) has been there for many years and has done a great job,” Salas said. “But the community is ready for a little change and we are looking for a little different direction in how the district is run.”

He added that the New Mexico School Board Association assisted the district in its search for its new top administrator.

Begueria’s application indicates that she has 20 years of experience in New Mexico schools as a teacher, principal and Roswell Independent School District administrator. She had been the Lake Arthur superintendent for three years. She also works as a mentor and partner with programs offered by the New Mexico School Bureau of the Public Education Department and serves as an executive coach for fellows of the Woodrow Wilson Master of Business Administration program at the University of New Mexico.

Garner has been the Dexter High School principal since August 2017 and has been an educator since 2008. Her prior positions included serving as a high school Freshmen Academy leader and a reading, writing, language arts and social studies teacher with three other school districts.

Maldonado has been an educator since August 2010, when he became a special education teacher with the Las Vegas City Schools. In July 2016, he joined the Mora Independent School District and serves as a principal and the director of special education, bilingual and pre-kindergarten programs.

Mitchell’s application indicates that he entered the education profession in July 2010 as the K-12 principal with Grady Municipal School. In July 2012, he became superintendent of Texico Municipal Schools. Three years later, he joined Artesia Public Schools, where he serves as the high school agricultural education teacher, metal fabrication teacher and Future Farmers of America advisor.

The Dexter school district consists of an elementary, a middle and a high school in separate buildings. It has about 821 enrolled students this academic year. The district is in a largely agricultural town, and the New Mexico Vistas website, a project of the New Mexico Public Education Department, indicates that about 84% of its students are Hispanic and 99% are considered economically disadvantaged. Its overall academic performance for the 2018-2019 year was scored at 51 out of a possible 100 points. The state average score for districts was 53.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.