Two on board won't run

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Education: McKinley and Venhaus cite personal reasons

By Tris DeRoma

School board members Melanie McKinley and Dawn Venhaus recently announced they will not be seeking re-election this year.

Both members cited professional and personal reasons for why they won’t be seeking another term on the board.

“Trying to balance teaching with raising four kids and serving on the school board, something had to give,” McKinley said. “It’s time for me to just step down for a while.”

When McKinley’s term is up in February, she will have completed one four-year stint.  According to McKinley, she came on to the board during a very tough time, just when the school system was heading into some rough financial times.

One of her proudest accomplishments she said was helping to guide the school system through that period.

“I’m really proud of the fact that we weathered the storm and that we made it through without our education system suffering,” she said, adding that she and her fellow board members created a real legacy of sound fiscal management.

During one year in her term, 2011, she said the board spent an entire year examining how it spent the money the school system received from the state as well as from the Department of Energy. The school system receives about $8 million a year from the DOE and about $24 million from the state.

“We really have a good understanding of where our money is going now,” she said. “We improved a lot of systems in how we managed the finances, and I really felt like I was the voice of reason when it came to not spending money where it shouldn’t be spent.”  

McKinley said her successor may be Matt Williams, who is also from White Rock. She said he came forward when it became certain she wasn’t going to run again. After having a few conversations with Williams, she said she feels better about stepping down.

“As long as you know somebody good is going to step up to serve a term, you feel much better about stepping down,” she said.

Venhaus, the vice chair of the school board, also will be moving on after joining the board last year to serve out the unexpired term of Thelma Hahn, who resigned.

Venhaus also cited family and career as the reasons.

“I recently acquired a job as the chair of the Science and Engineering Department at UNM-LA (University of New Mexico-Los Alamos) and between that and my responsibilities to the school board, it leaves little time for family,” Venhaus said.

“I just can’t do all three.”

However, she said that she hopes her position with the university will help.

“Through my position at the university, I’m sure I’ll be collaborating a lot with the schools,” she said.

As of press time, it’s not known if a replacement candidate has come forward. Prospective candidates must officially declare their intentions to the county clerk by the third Tuesday in December, according to state election laws.