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From left: Doris Carleton, Steve West, Ron Singleton
Carlsbad School Board elections are not until February, but the candidates up for re-election are already preparing their campaigns.

Board President Steve West of District 5; Vice President Doris Bruton-Carleton of District 1; and board member Ron Singleton from District 3 are all hoping for another term in their current positions to accomplish certain goals they have for the future of the school district.

"There's much yet to do," said West, who has served on the board for the last four years. West's ancestors moved to Eddy County in a covered wagon in 1896, so the president said his long-time roots in Carlsbad inspire him to want to make a better future for the children of the area.

West said he taught every grade level except second grade during his 31 years as an educator and said his main reason for wanting to continue on the school board is to continue being a voice. His goal is to refine the New Mexico A-F School Grading Accountability System.

"I'll push the state toward refining it," he said. "It's an improvement over pass-fail, but still needs work."

Number one on Singleton's agenda for a subsequent term would be getting the Bond Issue for New Schools ready for voters in order to provide the overcrowded Pate, Puckett, Riverside and Sunset elementary schools with new buildings, he said.

"The last one was built in 1956," said Singleton. "We're in desperate need of new schools."

West agreed with Singleton and said the selling point of the bond would be the fact that the school district already owns properties to build three of the schools. They're still waiting, however, to hear from the Bureau of Land Management to find out if they can acquire 40 acres behind the new Quail Hollow subdivision for the possible new site of Riverside Elementary School. "Every indication is that it'll be in our favor," said Singleton. And while that's a good first step, West said there is still some work to be done in order to prepare the bond for a ballot. Bruton-Carleton, who has a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from University of New Mexico, said a second term for her would mean pushing for higher graduation rates and a bilingual education program at all grade levels to better equip students for college or a career.

As a world-wide traveler who speaks conversational Spanish, French and Dutch, Bruton-Carleton said students in foreign countries are often required to learn two or three other languages in addition to studying grammar in their native tongue.

"Our students are no less talented," said Bruton-Carleton. "I want to maximize that talent."

But for now, Bruton-Carleton said getting a bilingual program kicked off will require more state funding, which she hopes to see in her next term.

Lack of funding from the legislature was a common complaint voiced by the three board members, but West and Singleton mentioned that in spite of the depleting funds that were recently cut by 10 percent, the school district has not let the financial situation affect its teachers. "I'm most proud of that," said Singleton, about his last five years on the board. "We have not had to let one teacher go because of finances."

He said his only regret is that the teachers have not received a raise higher than $1 per year. In addition to that accomplishment, West mentioned that overall test scores have gone up in the schools, and he feels the school board needs to continue keeping class sizes small to further these results.

The three incumbents agree on several points regarding what they would like to see during the next four years, but they each admitted that there is quite a bit of disagreement that goes on in closed meeting sessions.

"We are each different personalities," said Bruton-Carleton, who said she understands all about professional disagreements from her days as a lawyer, "but we disagree amicably, and because of that, we come up with a better solution."

Bruton-Carleton said she firmly believes "school boarding is a team sport," and said the best thing she has heard a school board member say is, "The board has spoken. I may personally disagree with the decision, but I support the position of the board."

Those very sentiments, she said, have made for a cohesive and unified school board in Carlsbad.

"We're all very diverse, but we've built a team," said West. "That's our biggest success."

West added that each of the five board members has also expressed a desire for higher standards and more accountability in the district. Another point each board member agrees on is the reason for doing what they do.

"There's absolutely no pay," said Singleton. "You do it for your love of kids."

Both Singleton and his wife Martha are former physical education teachers, and he said he still referees track meets and attends every athletic event to stay in touch with the school kids.

And whether he wins the February election or not, West said he will continue to volunteer in the schools to help students with science projects and others with bird watching. Though he truly hopes to win, "I'll be involved with kids regardless," he said.