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The APS Board of Education building on Saturday, Oct. 21.

APS school board election prepares to bring changes to the district

On Nov. 7, Albuquerque Public Schools will hold an election for school board members. District 1, 2 and 4 each have representatives running for a spot on the school board.

Community focuses and values have been voiced throughout fall 2022 within organized community meetings and numerous individual conversations.

Consistent concerns regarding the need for schools to emphasize literacy, math, post-secondary readiness, and the skills, habits and mindsets that lead to success, according to APS Goals and Guardrails. 

None of the candidates responded to the Daily Lobo's request for comment in time for publication.

District 4 

District 4 includes Highland High School and its feeder elementary and middle schools.

Heather R. Benavidez 

Benavidez is chair of the 100% Community Housing Task Force in Valencia County and the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board.

“I see a need for increasing funding to support students with disabilities and special education, increasing student enrollment, filling vacant teaching positions, and increasing the safety of students, faculty and staff,” Benavidez wrote, according to his APS questionnaire. 

Benavidez also discussed the Board of Education’s role in deciding the superintendent and the importance of deciding who that person is and what values they hold.

“An uneducated populace is easier to control, therefore public education is essential to a healthy democracy and must be protected. Public education is filled with committed educators and staff who care for our children, giving them the ability to think critically and distinguish fact from fiction,” Benavidez wrote.

Stephen J. Cecco

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Cecco has volunteered for the Title I Homeless Project, Feed New Mexico Kids and with the Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors Fundraising to give to non-profit charities in the community, according to his questionnaire with APS. 

“I see the lack of proficiencies as our biggest challenge, and I see the Goals and Guardrails as a way to begin addressing this issue and continue building on that base to create success after success,” Cecco wrote in the questionnaire.

District 2

District 2 covers Volcano Vista and Cibola High Schools as well as their feeder elementary and middle schools.

Ronalda Tome Warito

Tome Warito has involvement in Indian Education Knowledge, Special Education Knowledge, Facilitated Individual Education Plans and Mediation with APS, according to Tome Warito's APS questionnaire. 

An IEP is an Individual Education Plan that identifies specific needs for students to be met by administration and faculty. With more focus on forming these plans and ideas for student transitions, APS would take a more student-centric approach, which a few of the candidates vocally advocate for.

“Supporting the school board in understanding the Martinez and Yazzie Lawsuits (addressing class and racial inequities), especially in the context of Special Education and Native Americans, requires a multifaceted approach,” Tome Warito wrote. “Including IEPs and transition plans in the goal processes will be very helpful in including all students.”

Peggy Muller-Aragón

Muller-Aragón has served two terms on the National Association of Latino Elected Officials and has been on the ABC Community School's Board since 2017, a bilingual advisory committee, according to her APS questionnaire.

“Outside interests and adult interests too often take precedence over student interest. Having been an APS student, parent and educator, I believe that when we place our students above politics and above those outside interests that APS will become a better school system,” Muller-Aragón wrote.

Adrian Nogales

Nogales has been with the district since 2008, serving over 15 years as an educational assistant, substitute, kindergarten teacher, second grade bilingual teacher, 6-11 social studies teacher, coach and administrator, according to his questionnaire with APS. Nogales did not respond to the Daily Lobo’s request for comment.

Nogales writes that she sees language as something APS could lead in and wants to see bilingual stipends for language teachers alongside school safety.

“The Albuquerque Public Schools police needs to be revamped and the district/school board needs to invite more community partnerships, including with APD, Service Aides, Bernalillo county sheriff, NMSP and all other positive role models,” Nogales wrote in the questionnaire.

District 1 

District 1 encompasses Atrisco Heritage Academy and Rio Grande high schools as well as their feeder elementary and middle schools.

Janelle Jaime Astorga

Astorga co-founded an advocacy group called Youth Voices in Action, through the Learning Alliance of New Mexico their efforts have been sponsored by the APS Office of Equity and Engagements for eight years.

“I believe in the potential of every student, and together, we can create an environment where they thrive. Let's champion their dreams, aspirations and ensure they have all the tools they need to succeed,” Astorga wrote.

Robert Trujillo

Trujillo has served as the parent representative on the Pajarito Elementary School Instructional Council, and on the Parent Advisory Committee that was a part of the ABCs grant, according to his questionnaire with APS. Trujillo did not respond to the Daily Lobo’s request for comment.

“There’s been a strong disconnect between our state legislature and our local school board. That’s been a challenge. Fortunately, I’ve been endorsed by the legislators in my district and we’re prepared to collaborate on our mutual goals to deliver policies and funding to secure the best possible future for our educators and our children,” Trujillo wrote in the questionnaire.

Verlando O. Coker

Coker has 10 years of pedagogical (methods of teaching research) and he currently volunteers as a tutor at La Placita and offers family support for IEPs, Behavior Intervention Plans and Intervention Hearings, according to his questionnaire with APS. Coker did not respond to the Daily Lobo’s request for comment.

He wants to see cross district collaboration and sees the need for modernization in the district’'s goals and guardrails.

“While the goals and guardrails are fine on paper, everything from the metrics we draw from to the statistical goals themselves are designed around a system that will not prepare students for the 21st century workplace. They are not sufficient in bettering the district,” Coker wrote in the questionnaire.

Each candidate has outlined the improvements they aspire to make to the Albuquerque Public School system in individual questionnaires. Access the candidate questionnaires here.


Detroit Kallunki is a senior reporter with the Daily Lobo. They can be reached at or on Twitter @DailyLobo.

Milan Ortiz-Ruiz is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at 

Detroit Kallunki

 Detroit Kallunki is a senior reporter with the Daily Lobo. 

Milan Ortiz-Ruiz

 Milan Ortiz-Ruiz is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached on Twitter @ milanortiz_or 

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