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LCPS narrows superintendent list


The Las Cruces Public Schools Board of Education has confirmed seven applicants to participate in semifinalist interviews in its search for a new superintendent of schools. The candidates, culled from a final qualified applicant pool of 30 people during a closed session of the board June 9, will be interviewed in closed session Friday and Saturday, June 16-17, at the Dr. Karen M. Trujillo Administration Complex. The Board of Education may expand the list at any time during the semifinalist stage to include any of the qualified applicants. 

The semifinalist candidates are  Debra Elder, Monica Mesa, Fred Montalvo, Raul Peña, Geovanny Ponce, Cynthia Retana and Ignacio Ruiz.  

Dr. Debra Elder is currently the interim superintendent at Los Lunas Schools. She joined Los Lunas in 2021 as Chief Academic Officer of Instruction, Accountability and Innovation. Prior to Los Lunas, Elder led the Office of Innovation and School Choice in the Albuquerque Public Schools district. She holds bachelor’s, master’s and educational specialist degrees from the University of New Mexico and is a graduate of the University of Southern California’s Doctorate in Organizational Change and Leadership program.  

Monica Mesa has been an educator for 31 years and currently supervises 26 elementary schools as the Assistant Superintendent of East Elementary Schools in Mesa Public Schools, the largest school district in Arizona. She has served as an assistant principal, principal, principal coach and university instructor.  Mesa received her master's degree in educational leadership and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree from Northern Arizona University.  

Dr. Fred Montalvo is currently the Executive Director of Operations for Las Cruces Public Schools. Prior to LCPS, was a teacher and coach at Mescalero Apache Schools and Hatch Valley Public Schools. His administrative experience includes serving as an assistant principal at Camino Real Middle School and Mayfield High School, and as principal at Picacho Middle School. Montalvo holds a master’s degree in educational administration and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.  

Dr. Raul Peña has been an educator for more than two decades. He has served as a bilingual classroom teacher, middle school assistant principal, campus principal and district leader. In 2018, Dr. Peña joined Fort Worth (Texas) Independent School District as Chief of Schools and currently serves as Chief Talent Officer, charged with re-imagining the district’s hiring process. He received his bachelor and doctoral degrees from the University of Texas at Austin and participated in the Harvard National Institute for Urban Leaders.  

Dr. Geovanny Ponce is currently the Assistant Superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, where he has spent the last two decades of his career. Previously, he served as a middle and high school principal in the Houston district where, under his guidance, campuses experienced improvements in student achievement. His educational experience includes a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the National Autonomous University of Honduras in Tegucigalpa, a master’s degree in educational administration and supervision from the University of Houston and a doctoral degree in public school administration from Texas A&M University.  

Cynthia Retana has spent her 27-year career in the Socorro Independent School District in El Paso, Texas, and Ector County Independent School District, also in Texas. She has spent years supervising principals and campuses as an assistant superintendent and executive director. Prior to that, she served as a principal at the elementary, middle and high school levels and served her community as a teacher, counselor and assistant principal. She holds a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Texas at El Paso, a master’s degree in education and mid-management from the University of Texas at El Paso and is currently a doctoral student at Texas A&M-Commerce.  

Ignacio Ruiz is an assistant superintendent for the Clark County School District in Nevada, the fifth largest school district in the nation. He has held several leadership positions including assistant principal, principal and director. Previously, Ruiz held the position of Director of Language Acquisition in the Tucson Unified School District. He is a graduate of the ALAS (Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents) National Superintendent Academy and the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown.  

Following the first round of interviews on June 16 and 17, the board expects to announce the candidates who will go on to the Superintendent Public Forum on June 22 at 6 p.m. at Organ Mountain High School, followed by a meet and greet in the lobby of the OMHS Performing Arts Center. The Superintendent Public Forum is a moderated question-and-answer session using input and question recommendations from the Superintendent Search Committee – a volunteer group of students, parents, teachers, administrators and community members. 

A final round of interviews is scheduled to be held in closed session on June 29 and 30, with the final candidate named in an open meeting as early as July 1.