Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

Albuquerque Public School’s new board members will face a host of challenges in the upcoming months, from navigating the New Mexico’s Public Education Department’s proposed changes to the state’s social studies and history curriculum to outdated infrastructure within the district. After the Nov. 3 election, the board took a conservative turn as two conservative candidates won their seats out of the four open seats.

“I know the headlines have been that the board has swung to a conservative-minded board, but I don’t believe that captures the complex nature of this board,” newly elected District 6 board member Josefina Dominguez said in an interview with The Paper. Dominguez ran as a nonpartisan candidate for District 6 and handily won the seat. Dominguez was an educator for 28 years and was endorsed by Albuquerque’s Teacher Federation. “We have five Hispanic women. We also have an all-female board which is historic,” Dominguez added. 

Dominguez was quick to note that despite the difference in political affiliations between the board members, she is optimistic that the all-female board share the same ambition to improve education in Albuquerque. “I think that there is a lot that this board can agree upon and move forward with at a time when we definitely need that to happen,” Dominguez said. Dominguez hopes to address long overdue repairs for APS’s aging infrastructure— particularly the elevated lead levels in some schools. “Tied with is that is what are we going to do in terms of the budget to address maintenance and repairs that our old school buildings need.”

“Tied to safety and health is the lack of people working across the board. We need more adults on campus. I will argue, without a major infusion of money at the state level, that will continue to haunt us.” According to Dominguez, the greatest challenge that the board faces is increasing the number of staff for APS and critical updates to infrastructure. “The biggest challenge is going to be our workforce,” Dominguez said. In order to attract and maintain a workforce capable of meeting APS needs, Dominguez hopes to secure further funding from the state and increase salaries, especially entry-level salaries. She also hopes to increase salaries for office and other essential staff within APS to maintain and attract qualified candidates to the school district.

The recent and often heated debate about reforming and updating social studies will soon take center stage as the PED will hold a hearing on Friday, Nov. 12. “I don’t anticipate a major change, other than I hope that PED will take into account the Yazzie/Martinez case,” Dominguez said. The Yazzie/Martinez case was a court-ordered mandate for the state to provide equal access to IT services and funding for at-risk students all over the state. Dominguez noted that an update to the state’s social studies curriculum would better represent the state’s diversity. “We live in the Land of Enchantment, and we like to play our diversity as a strength. And it is,” Dominguez said. 

Dominguez hopes that the board will move to address falling enrollment, expand apprenticeship programs and continue to improve safety for students against the spread of COVID.