Off and On: Search needs to be highest priority

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By Ralph Damiani

There is a very important process going on right now – a search for a new superintendent.In all honesty, this may be the most important hire this community makes for a long time. And we must do it right.We understand that saying that is easy, but what does it mean?We think that it means, at the very least, doing all that we can to go out and get the very best person out there, with no holding back.And we feel that the school board is doing just that.This community – and school board – must understand they have a tremendous bargain in current superintendent Jim Anderson. He has helped lead this district to the heights it is at, to be one of the premier school districts in the nation.That effort must continue. But it won’t unless we can attract the kind of leader, with the right background and experience, to continue this upward drive.So we add our voice to those who are expressing concern over the announced salary by the board of $130,000. We must remember that we are lucky to have Anderson at this level – and that in reality he should be paid much more.It is common knowledge that it costs more to live here and that to attract people of the highest caliber the pay must be commensurate with that fact.That fact was noted recently when the district hired the high school principal and paid her some $109,000 – well above the state average.Also, the county recognizes this as its top managers are paid $159,985 (county) and $142,512 (utilities) and $128,000 (attorney).All well deserved and all necessary to get the best folks.How can we argue that the superintendent deserves less? Is that post not far more important as he deals directly with our most precious resource – our children?The district is currently accepting public input on this process. The deadline for submitting applications for the post is Feb. 15 and the board has set a timeline that allows them to hire a new superintendent in late March or early April.The board has also said there will be more public meetings on the search. Take part in this and let school board members know what you think.This is too important a matter for the future of our community to not do all we can to get the very best person we can.

Support open government

There is a bill in the Legilature that would open conference committees to the public. The bill was introduced by Sen. Joe Carraro (SB205). There is no companion House bill at this point. The Legislature came within one vote last year of passing this measure, This bill is important as it brings home the point that our government should be open to us.If we are to have a truly democratic process then the work of our elected committees should be open to us.The bill has been referred to three committees, which will make passage difficult in a 30-day session. But this is an important matter that should receive due consideration.In 43 other states, their conference committees are open to the public. It is time for New Mexico to join the list.Make your voice heard and urge the Legislature to pass this important bill.

E-mail Ralph at ralph@lamonitor.com.