LAS CRUCES – A newcomer is running against incumbent Ray Jaramillo for the seat of the Public School Education Committee of District 1 of Las Cruces this fall.
The safety officer Abelardo Balcazar will meet Jaramillo, the president of the school committee and only four-year-old incumbent, in this year’s school council elections.
LCPS District 1 is located in the northwest area of Las Cruces, including the Alameda Elementary, Booker T. Washington Elementary, Jornada Elementary, Loma Heights Elementary, Picacho Middle, Sierra Middle, and Mayfield High.
The Doña Ana County Early Voting begins Tuesday, October 5th. Election day on November 2nd.
This year there are three seats on the LCPS school board to choose from: District 1, District 2, and District 3.
Meet the other candidates:
Balcazar, 51, grew up in San Antonio, Texas before joining the United States Navy in 1989. While in the Navy, he earned an Associate Degree in General Studies from Central Texas College.
During his 20 years of service, he achieved the rank of First Class Sergeant (E-6), which he said taught him leadership skills. He and his family moved to Las Cruces after retiring from the San Diego Navy and held various positions at the McAfee Army Health Clinic in White Sands Missile Range, including personnel assistant, assistant to the clinic commandant and industrial hygiene technician.
He also completed his bachelor’s degree in individualized studies from New Mexico State University in May 2011.
Balcazar now works as a security specialist for the city of Las Cruces.
He stated in an email that he is running for the District 1 office for his grandchildren, nieces, and other community members attending schools in LCPS. He said he was not satisfied with the performance of the current school board.
“Our children’s education should be a top priority,” said Balcazar. “Unfortunately, the board’s top priority seems to be making politics and doing PR for themselves and protecting the privileged interests of the status quo.”
He added that there is a cycle of low performance with LCPS that needs to be changed in part at the board level.
Balcazar said he would prioritize increasing funding for “high school education” and “parenting” and increasing extracurricular and career-oriented programs for high school students.
He said he disagreed with the name change from Oñate High to Organ Mountain High or the adoption of Policy JBC, the district’s latest equity policy.
Balcazar believes LCPS “unnecessarily delayed” the reopening of schools in the spring.
“I’m not running because I want to be a politician, I’m running because no one else came,” said Balcazar.
Balcazar was unable to speak to a reporter and answered all questions by email.
Jaramillo, 47, is the current President of the LCPS Board of Education, who was nominated for office in January 2021. He has been on the board since his election in 2017.
Jaramillo grew up in Belen, New Mexico and moved to Las Cruces in 1993 to attend NMSU. He earned his bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. In 2017, he helped develop an unlicensed early childhood program that is now an integral part of the NMSU College of Education. He later earned a Masters in Early Childhood Education from the Erickson Institute and is currently working on his PhD in Education at North Central University.
Jaramillo is the director of the Alpha School, which looks after and trains children from the age of 5. He has been working with the school since 1994.
“I think I bring unique skills to the board,” said Jaramillo. “An early childhood perspective, a leadership perspective, a relationship perspective. I believe it’s all about relationships.
He said the decision by Maria Flores, another school board member, not to run for re-election after 12 years on the board, was a factor in his decision to run again. He said he wanted to stabilize the board, especially since Superintendent Ralph Ramos was relatively new and was appointed to the position about six months ago.
“Our two newest members, Secretary (Teresa) Tenorio, Vice President (Carol) Cooper, came in at a very difficult time (in 2019),” Jaramillo said. “I thought I could bring some stability and maybe even background on some of the things we do in the district. The district would be in very good hands whether I get elected or not.”
Jaramillo has been working in the parent-teacher organization of Jornada Elementary since the beginning of his two children at the LCPS. He was president of the PTO until his children went to middle school. His daughter is currently a senior at Centennial High.
“One of the coolest things I could do for my kids was get involved in their education,” said Jaramillo.
Jaramillo ran for state representative in 2016 and lost. He said he had no plans to run for an elected office again, but changed his mind after some parishioners reached out to him, leading to his possible 2017 election to the school board.
He said the last few years he served on the board have been tough: between a budget crisis, Superintendent Greg Ewing’s resignation, the ransomware attack on the district, a recall attempt, the COVID-19 pandemic and Superintendent’s death Karen Trujillo unexpectedly hired current Superintendent Ramos and appointed a temporary board member following Terrie Dallman’s resignation.
An attempt to recall board members Jaramillo, Flores and Dallman – on allegations of violating state and school district policies – has failed since June 2019 when District Judge James T. Martin ruled that there were enough reasons to campaign Collecting voter signatures that could trigger a special election. Martin’s ruling has been challenged in the state Supreme Court, where it has been for over two years.
Flores is not seeking re-election to the board and Dallman resigned in June. In her resignation letter, Dallman alleged “gross forms of harassment (bullying, misogynistic behavior)” on the board under Jaramillo’s presidency. She specifically pointed out what she perceived to be “mismanagement” of the superintendent search that ended with Ramos’ appointment.
Jaramillo said he felt he owed it to the community that has invested in him for four years to start walking again. At first he ran without resistance.
“I am convinced of what we are doing, the mission and the vision,” said Jaramillo. “I just want to carry that on.”
Jaramillo said he plans to continue supporting community schools, investing in and expanding early childhood services, and putting student safety first. He said the past four years have been mostly in survival mode, but he hopes to help build the district if he’s re-elected.
“I always put children first,” said Jaramillo. “I wouldn’t give less for other people’s children than I would give my own. All these things about safety, masks and things like that. I always lead with my own children’s thoughts and don’t give anything less to other families.” . “
Miranda Cyr, a member of the Report for America corps, can be reached at [email protected] or @mirandabcyr on Twitter. Show your support for the Report for America program at https://bit.ly/LCSNRFA.