Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

23 candidates vie for top spot at Las Cruces Public Schools

Nearly two dozen candidates are seeking the superintendent position for Las Cruces Public Schools. Nine candidates have experience in New Mexico and 14 are applying with entirely out of state experience.

Submissions for the job closed June 4. The school board intends to name someone to the position by July 1.

School board members will start closed sessions to narrow candidates Friday and continue into next week. The Las Cruces Board of Education will host a public forum on June 22, introducing finalists at Oregon Mountain High School at 6 p.m.

Las Cruces Public School board starts breakneck superintendent search

The school board contracted JG Consulting out of Austin, Texas for $40,000 to help with the job search. The district has more than 23,700 students.

The search follows the April resignation of Las Cruces schools superintendent Ralph Ramos. Ramos served for two years after the sudden death of Karen Trujillo. He departed under clouded circumstances, with two closed door meetings regarding two grievances filed by employees. Neither the nature of the grievances or the employees names are public.


Via a public records request, Source New Mexico reviewed each candidate’s resume and cover letters submitted in their applications. Listed in alphabetical order, here are the candidates and some background experience they want to bring to southern New Mexico.

Thomas Brillhart

Current assistant superintendent of New Albany Floyd County Schools in Indiana with just over 11,500 students. He was the chief operating officer for Bullitt County Public Schools in Kentucky and was an interim superintendent for Silver Creek School Corporation in Indiana.

Israel Cordero

The CEO of nonprofit Friends of P-Tech, which partners with Texas school districts. Cordero has administrative experience at Dallas Independent School District as a deputy superintendent, chief communications and school leadership positions.

Nia Campbell

Presently the chief academic officer at Aurora Public Schools in Colorado, Campbell has teaching, management, and university experience in Florida. She was an assistant superintendent, principal and teacher at Hillsborough County Public Schools.

Curtis Clough

Oversees the 397 students as the superintendent of Hagerman Municipal Schools in Hagerman, New Mexico located between Roswell and Artesia. Clough has been an associate superintendent in Silver City schools, and a principal at Crownpoint High School with Gallup-McKinley County Schools. He’s had administrative experience in Alaska, Ohio and Arizona.

Betsy Dobias

Currently the superintendent for Ganado Unified School District in Arizona with nearly 1,300 students. Dobias has been an administrator, an action principal and teacher at different districts in Arizona. She’s been at Navajo Nation school district since 2020.

James Drake

Drake is a senior engineer/superintendent for DTG Associates for commercial construction. He is a former associate superintendent in Gonzales, Calif. He also has administration, and teaching experience in Thornton schools in South Holland, Illinois. In 2022 he applied for the superintendent post for Little Rock Public Schools in Arkansas. In March 2023, he applied for Broward County Public Schools in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The cover letters for Broward and Las Cruces were very similar for the first three graphs, including sentences that were word-for-word the same. 

Jed Duggan

The current director for student success at nearby Gadsden Independent School District. Duggan was also a principal and lead at Pecos Connections Academy in Carlsbad and New Mexico Connection Academy. Duggan was also a teacher at Vista Middle School in Las Cruces.

Deborah Elder

Presently the interim superintendent for Los Lunas Schools. Before that she was an executive director of innovation and school choice at Albuquerque Schools. She’s been a principal, staff developer, assistant principal and teacher in the Albuquerque Public Schools district. She is married to outgoing Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Scott Elder. 

Paula Gama Garcia

Currently a senior Vice President for regional operations at Teach for America, where she was also an executive director in Rio Grande Valley, Texas. Gama Garcia taught and was a school administrator in Texas schools, including director of curriculum at Raymondville, Texas.  

Jerry Gibson

The outgoing superintendent of Galveston Independent School District with 6,700 students. In May, he agreed to resign from the district on June 30 due to controversial comments he made about women during a school groundbreaking ceremony in April, according to Houston Public Media. The school board agreed to pay Gibson a $70,000 severance for his departure. He has experience in other Texas school districts such as Marshall, Waco, Whitney and Deweyville, with teaching in Port Arthur, Houston and Beaumont.

Carmela Levy-David

Levy-David is the assistant superintendent of Fort Bend Independent School District, with 80,000 students. Levy-David has principal and vice principal experience in Texas, Florida and Arizona school districts. On June 8, she was named one of two finalists for a superintendent position in Connecticut.

Monica Mesa

An assistant superintendent in Mesa Public Schools, currently overseeing 26 schools in the Arizona school district. Mesa has been a teacher, principal and principal coach in the Mesa Public Schools District.

Fred Montalvo

Currently a Las Cruces Public Schools administrator overseeing operations of all the schools, He’s been a principal at Picacho Middle school, and assistant principal at Camino Rael Middle School, and a former math teacher and athletic coordinator. He also works with the New Mexico Public Education Department as a member of its Hispanic Education Advisory Committee.

Antonio Montoya

The current Assistant Superintendent for Special Education at the Las Cruces school district. Montoya is also a former principal at Picacho Middle School and Centennial High School. He taught in Las Cruces, Newcomb and Shiprock schools.

Mathew Neal

The present interim executive leader/consultant at New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell. Prior to that he was a consultant in Colorado. He’s held superintendents positions in Wyoming, Kuwait and an interim position in Woodland Park, Colorado.

Geovanny Ponce

Ponce is the assistant superintendent at Houston Independent School District in Texas, overseeing 52 high schools. Ponce has been a middle school and high school principal in the district, and a bilingual teacher. He was recently one of two finalists for the superintendent position at Sioux City Falls Community Schools.

Samia Rahman

Currently a district instructional coach at Trinity Basin Preparatory School district in Dallas, Texas, Rahman also taught in Arlington, Texas. Rahman did not include a cover letter.

Oscar Rico

Currently the executive director of technology at Canutillo Independent School district, Rico has taught and managed schools in El Paso, Clint, Ysleta and Canutillo school districts.

Gregory Rodríguez

Most recently the superintendent for Edcouch-Elsa school district in Texas, which has 4,500 students. According to the MyRGV.com article, Rodríguez departed after a closed-door meeting, following tumult between himself, the board and the community. He was the superintendent for Waterbury Connecticut and Carlsbad, New Mexico. He’s held administrative positions in Texas districts such as Huntsville, San Marcos, Austin and San Antonio.

Michelle Ronga

Ronga is the principal at the Rio Grande Preparatory Institute in Mesilla. Ronga has been an assistant principal and principal at Las Cruces High School and a principal for Sierra Middle School.

Ignacio Ruiz

At present, Ruiz is an assistant superintendent for Clark County Schools in Las Vegas, Nevada. Before that, he was a director and principal at Tucson Unified School District. He has been an assistant principal, facilitator and teacher in Sunnyside Unified School District outside Tucson, Arizona.

Miguel Serrano

Serrano is a school improvement officer for Midland Independent School District in Texas. He was previously the chief operations officer and chief human resources officer at Las Cruces Public Schools. He’s been a teacher, assistant principal and principal and directed human resources at Socorro schools in El Paso, Texas. 

Jerri-Lynn Williams-Harper

Currently an administrator in special projects at Ely, Nevada, White Pine School District. Williams-Harper also was the leader of two charter schools, one in Ely, Nevada, and another in Kalamazoo Michigan. Williams-Harper has been superintendent in three other Michigan districts: Albion, Mt. Morris and Flint. She led the Fort Gaines Georgia, Clay County schools before that.

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