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Barbara Petersen

District 4 Candidate

Candidate Questions and Answers

Why do you want to be a board member for Albuquerque Public Schools?

I am a whole-hearted supporter of public education.  In my first term on the APS Board, we faced a severe budget crisis and a number of punitive state and federal policies that focused on blaming the student, teacher and community.  I would like to spend my next term working to rebuild and transform our public schools.  Since we are finally beginning to have the resources to implement the programs and strategies that we know will work for our students, I am optimistic about the future of our public schools.

What is your interest in education?

I was hired by APS as an educational assistant in 1977, had my first teacher contract in 1979 and taught for the district until I retired in 2012.  During those years, I was interested in not only classroom practice, but also education policy and the social justice issues that impact our students.

In what ways will you support the mission and vision of the district?

To me, the most important part of the district’s mission and vision is the recognition of its responsibility to educate all children.  To do that well, children must be recognized as more than test-takers. They need to be recognized as part of a community with cultures, languages and experiences that must be honored.  The Academic Master Plan, which grew out of a great deal of community input, lays out that vision, and the superintendent’s “Big 5” helps define the path.  My primary role is to support the policies and budget priorities that make implementation possible.

How will you work with the superintendent?

As a board member, I can be ears and voice for the community. Consequently, open communication with the superintendent is important.  A spirit of collaboration and problem-solving is very important.  However, it is essential to remember that as an individual, a board member has no authority, especially no authority over the superintendent.  Each board member has authority only in the context of making decisions as one of seven on the board.  I have appreciated how open and accessible Raquel Reedy has been to the board, how empathetic she is with the community and how she connects with people.  I have encouraged her to utilize those strengths with more town hall meetings and informal gatherings to allow more community conversation.

What is your past and current involvement with Albuquerque Public Schools?

I am the current board member for district 4.  From 1977 until retirement in 2012, I worked as an educator for APS.

What should be the relationship between the superintendent and Board of Education?

The Board is responsible for hiring the superintendent and for setting policy and budget priorities which the superintendent is then responsible for implementing. This means that a close, collaborative and working relationship is essential.  However, while the board is responsible for setting the tone and leadership, board members need to refrain from overstepping into the day-to-day practical work of the superintendent.  It is a gray line that is not always easy to see! A sense of teamwork helps ensure both the Board and the superintendent faithfully carry out their responsibilities and deliver the best public education possible to our children.

What qualities and skills would you bring to the Board of Education?

In my life prior to being elected to the Board, I was a classroom teacher, instructional and reading coach, and reading intervention teacher.  I understand classroom practice and the systems within schools that either support or hinder the work of the educator. Additionally, I was engaged with state and legislative policy as an active member of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation.  In my first term on the APS board, I served as chair of the Equity and Engagement Committee (now the Equity and Inclusion Committee), followed by the Policy and Instruction Committee.  I have become a New Mexico School Board Association Master Board Member and have taken advantage of the opportunities provided by the NMSBA, the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, and the Council of Great Cities Schools to deepen my knowledge of education policy and best practices for a school board.

What school or community volunteer activities have you participated in related to the community?

As an APS board member, I sit on the board of the ABC Community School Partnership and I have developed relationships with many of the parent organizations, neighborhood associations, community school councils and organizations such as Together for Brothers and the International District Healthy Community Coalition that support the community and our students.

How do you plan to work with constituents?

During my first term, I have met with PTAs and other parent organizations, attended neighborhood association meetings, gone door-to-door during the various bond and mill levy campaigns, periodically sent out an informational constituent letter and held constituent meetings several times each year.  I try to meet with individuals, groups or organizations whenever there are concerns.

What do you see as opportunities and challenges to the district?

During my first term, we have been confronted with a serious lack of resources, a test-based, punitive system of school grades and teacher evaluations, and a resulting severe shortage of teachers and other professional educators, as well as a degree of lost community trust in APS.  This year has seen a shift, with increased investment in schools and educators, a shift in their evaluation. All the while, exciting work is being done in the district.  Partnerships with the Teachers Federation, CNM and UNM are rebuilding the profession.  The ABC Community School Partnership is developing coordinators, administrators, educators, families and community members who support students’ growth and success by creating new relationships and sharing leadership.  APS has amazing educators who have created programs that speak to the heart of the community -- ethnic studies, dual language, restorative practices, art and music, career and technical opportunities. The urgent challenge now is bringing those opportunities in a strong, equitable and meaningful way to all students.

What do you think is the best way for the district to accomplish the Superintendent’s Big Five?

The plans made for the three MRI schools, Hawthorne, Whittier, and Los Padillas, can be a template for accomplishing these goals.  When the PED threatened to close these schools, the district, the schools’ staffs, families, the impacted communities and the Teachers Federation worked together to honestly assess strengths and needs. Rather than closing, it was clear that these schools were essential to their communities and the communities had much to offer.  A framework was developed which included collaborative leadership, opportunities for professional growth, expanded learning time and the development of a community school.  Using the framework, each school individually designed a program that met its needs and used its strengths, one focusing on dual-language, another on early childhood education and another on the community relationships.

  1. Early learning
  2. College and Career Readiness
  3. Attendance
  4. Developing the Whole Child
  5. Community and Parent Engagement

If elected, how will you work with the current board?

The current board is a unique group of individuals who come with a wide variety of talents, backgrounds and experiences.  We are committed to equity and making sure the district’s resources, human and financial, create equity within the district.  We share the goal of supporting our students by creating an environment that respects the diversity, culture and languages of our community.  We strive for consensus and understanding.  It has been an honor to serve with them and I hope to continue serving for another term.