Las Cruces narrows school board race to three candidates

By: - June 20, 2023 4:45 am

Cyclists ride past the Las Cruces Public Schools administration building May 4, 2023. The Board of Education plans to hire a new superintendent for the district by early July. (Danielle Prokop / Source New Mexico)

Public Forum information

All three finalists are expected to participate in the a forum at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 22 in the Performing Arts Center at Organ Mountain High School, which will also be broadcast live.

The Las Cruces Board of Education announced a narrowed list of three candidates for the superintendent position after a series of closed-door interviews with seven semi-finalists over the weekend.

The finalists are Debra Elder, Monica Mesa and Ignacio Ruíz, according to a press release. The eliminated candidates included the sole candidate applying from within the district.

Las Cruces Public Schools has a population of nearly 24,000 students, and the last superintendent had a starting salary of $180,000.

There will be a final round of one-on-one interviews in closed session next week. If the search remains on track, the board has a meeting planned for 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 1, to name a new superintendent.

Debra Elder (Courtesy of Las Cruces Public Schools)

Elder is the only candidate with New Mexico experience. She’s been an administrator in Los Lunas and Albuquerque school districts.

Most recently, Elder has been the interim superintendent of Los Lunas Schools (8,500 students), where she has been the chief academic officer for curriculum since 2021. Before that, Elder led the office of innovation and school choice in Albuquerque Public Schools. She was also a principal, staff developer and elementary teacher in Albuquerque schools.

Elder is married to outgoing APS Superintendent Scott Elder.

Monica Mesa (Courtesy of Las Cruces Public Schools)

Mesa is an assistant superintendent in Mesa Public Schools in Mesa, Arizona – a district of approximately 64,000 students, overseeing 26 elementary schools. Her career in Arizona started more than 30 years ago, as a teacher. Mesa has also been a principal, university instructor and principal coach.

Ignacio Ruíz (Courtesy of Las Cruces Public Schools)

Ruíz is the assistant superintendent in Clark County Schools District in Nevada. Before that, he was an administrator and principal at Tucson Unified School District. He has worked as an assistant principal, facilitator and teacher in Sunnyside Unified School District outside Tucson, Arizona. In 2021, he was a finalist in the APS superintendent search.

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Danielle Prokop
Danielle Prokop

Danielle Prokop covers the environment and local government in Southern New Mexico for Source NM. Her coverage has delved into climate crisis on the Rio Grande, water litigation and health impacts from pollution. She is based in Las Cruces, New Mexico.