Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Newest Santa Fe school board member vows to be advocate, ‘cheerleader’ | Education

Sascha Anderson is a mother of three, a communications consultant for two high-profile Santa Fe political figures, and a local volunteer.

She also recently became the newest member of the Santa Fe School Board.

Anderson, 38, a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma who ran unanimously in the November 2 election for the previously Lorraine Price board seat in District 5, was appointed to the position in early September after Price’s death.

Your district includes several midtown schools – Santa Fe High School; Milagro Middle School; the Early College Opportunities School; and elementary schools in Kearny, Nava, Piñon and Salazar.

She said she plans to advocate better pay for teachers and will push for more discussions about justice in Santa Fe public schools, including the “fair distribution of resources” for the Adelante program that serves homeless students and families ; the nonprofit Communities In Schools, which offer a range of programs for the district’s poorest income children; and other initiatives.

As a Native American, she brings a new perspective to the district.

“I am an indigenous woman. I think this is really important, “she said, adding that she wished there was” a nation of New Mexico or a pueblo on the school board. “

The only other board seat available for election this year is the seat in District 3, which will be taken by board chairwoman Kate Noble, who is running unopposed.

Noble said in a recent interview that she was relieved that the board was able to fill Price so quickly. “It was nice and clean and it was clear who we have to appoint after we saw that Sascha is an undisputed candidate for the position.”

While Anderson’s name is fairly new to local politics, she has emerged as the lead spokesperson for the re-election campaign of Mayor Alan Webber and the Office of First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies in recent months.

She has contracts with both of them for her private communications consultancy.

“Sascha Anderson is immediately qualified,” said Carmack-Altwies in an interview on Friday. “While she currently works in communications, she has quite a background in justice and social justice. She has a great passion for certain topics that the school board regularly deals with. “

Webber also praised Anderson’s work in the community.

“I think she’s very close to the community,” he said. “She is actively committed to families, mothers and children. I think she will bring a lot of experience and constructive ideas to the school management. I think you made a good selection. “

The mayor stated that he had no say in the appointment of the school board.

Anderson acknowledged that her political and communicative work – including for local nonprofits – could create a conflict of interest when it comes to her position on the school board.

She recently consulted with the school board’s attorney on how to draw boundaries, she said.

“I am very aware of any overlap and will always withdraw from issues that overlap between my clients or my volunteer work or my work on the school board,” said Anderson.

She added that she “is very careful about putting this work in a silo. Nonetheless, I think there is potential for school board collaboration with various other government agencies and local authorities. “

Edel agreed. “I would ask anyone to tell me why there is a conflict of interest and not a reconciliation of interests,” she said. “Getting closer to the city is something I’ve worked on a lot.”

Carmack-Altwies said she and Anderson had already discussed a plan to avoid potential conflict.

“We have come up with a strategy so that in the event of a conflict it will evade voting or discussion in the school board, and of course I will remove it from all discussions if there is ever a discussion with the school board,” said the prosecutor.

“But when I had this discussion with her, none of us in the last three, four, five years could give an example of how the prosecution dealt with the school board,” she added.

Webber said the short duration of Anderson’s work on his campaign – it is under contract until Nov. 2 – is likely to avoid any duplication.

“I think we are 30 days from the election,” he said. “And that’s why I think the subject is very short-lived.” If something of concern came up, they would discuss the matter to ensure that “there is no conflict, or even the appearance of a conflict”.

Anderson grew up in Norman, Oklahoma and comes from a family of educators.

The public school system brought her comfort amid the reality of a childhood deeply marked by poverty and substance abuse.

“Having that experience and having the public schools … saved my life,” she said.

She took college courses for seven years, she said, but never graduated.

At 26, Anderson moved to New York City and worked in the specialty industry, and in 2015 she moved to Santa Fe with husband Michael and children, in part to escape “hyper-competition.” School system in the largest city in the country.

Anderson said she dressed for a seat on the school committee after watching board members over the past few years debating important issues such as dress code and the celebrations for the Fiesta de Santa Fe in schools.

“I’ll say I’ve also seen places where I thought school boards could improve,” she said. “There have been opportunities for growth in the areas of school closure talks [and] the transfer policy. “

The Tiny Nava Elementary School in District 5 has been identified in recent years as one of the few midtown schools that has been closed and consolidated due to small and stagnant or declining school enrollments. In 2019, Price and former board member Maureen Cashmon voted to close Nava and two other schools with low enrollments and high transfer rates. Their efforts did not pass.

Anderson’s eldest daughter, eight-year-old Winifred, attended Nava’s home schooling program before the family moved to the county.

Even so, Anderson said she doesn’t base the issue of school closings one way or the other. Instead, she called for greater stakeholder engagement and “more robust” equity talks.

“I say this as someone who uses the transfer policy,” she said. “So it’s not that I think … people shouldn’t be able to move schools.”

However, she found that some schools in the district have high rates of students moving from other zones, while many children have high numbers of children moving from other zones.

Prior to moving to District 5, Anderson directed the Gonzales Community School’s parent-teacher association. She also served on a diversity and equity committee through the State Department of Education, though she will step down from that position.

She is still on a justice committee under the new director of the Santa Fe Public Schools, Hilario “Larry” Chavez. It remains unclear whether she can continue to serve on the panel.

She is also a current board member of the local nonprofit Girls Inc.

Anderson said families can expect her to be a “cheerleader” for District 5 schools and to work for a more even distribution of resources between schools.

“And then the wellbeing of students and families, teachers and staff is paramount to me,” she said. “And those are food security, housing security, culturally appealing resources and mental health.”

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