Voters Guide 2019: Five contenders for CCSD Board of Education position 2

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Five candidates are hoping to win the position 2 seat for the Central Consolidated School District Board of Education.

Position 2 consists of the northwest portion of the school district, including an area of Shiprock.

Jonnye Begay, Hoskie Benally Jr., Sharon Clahchischilliage, Gary Montoya and Rose Nofchissey are vying for the seat after Adam Begaye did not seek re-election.

Benally did not respond to requests for comments by deadline.

Jonnye Begay

Jonnye Begay is running because she is passionate about the schools in the community and about the education of students.

"Most important, I am running for a seat in the school board to become a voice for my community, ensuring that the needs of the students are prioritized and met," she said.

Begay, also known as J. Kaibah Begay, wants to represent the community as a stakeholder at the county and state levels.

"As an educator, a parent and a student, I bring a unique skill set and perspective that I feel will serve my constituency and the district as a whole very well," she said.

Jonnye Begay

The top three challenges she views for CCSD are the effective and efficient use of district resources to benefit students, equal services and support to students throughout the district, and a shared accountability and responsibility for the board, staff, parents and students.

Begay has a professional background in the field of pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

Her career spans working with students, communities and families for 30 years as an educator and an administrator.

She is also the secretary-treasurer for the Shiprock Chapter and the secretary for the Northern Navajo Agency Council.

"My foremost advocacy is to work with our local community resources to improve our educational system," Begay said.

Sharon Clahchischilliage

Sharon Clahchischilliage has seen the change in education through her roles as an educator, community member and state representative.

Since her time as a special education teacher, she has watched the educational system change from teachers spending time teaching valuable lessons to focusing only on state test requirements.

With teachers occupied by meeting such requirements, they have no time to prepare lesson plans that address the needs of students, she said.

Sharon Clahchischilliage

Clahchischilliage also understands how a budget dictates a district's ability to operate.

Schools located in districts like Albuquerque operate well because they have the resources, but schools in rural districts like CCSD face barriers, including inadequate infrastructure and problems with jurisdiction.

"A lot of times the jurisdiction is looked up first before the education of students," she said.

As a board member, Clahchischilliage would rely on her experience from serving in the New Mexico House of Representatives to secure funding and to work with officials at all levels of government.

"I have the experiences I need to serve on the school board," Clahchischilliage said.

She earned a bachelor's degree from Eastern New Mexico University and her professional career includes working in public health services and as executive director for the Navajo Nation Washington Office.

Gary Montoya

Gary Montoya is running because there needs to be more focus on student proficiency rather than competency and he believes in the creativity, ability and autonomy of the well-educated teacher.

"I believe in the creativity, ability and autonomy of the well-educated teacher, who teach our children with passion, desire and commitment," he said.

Montoya added that over 30 years he has watched the destruction of educators by "ridged ideologies that are forced upon them for the never-ending quest for data or teaching to the multitudes of test."

Gary Montoya

"My vision and goal (are) to return the autonomy back into the hands of the educator and to make teaching great again," he said.

He would like to end the district's "revolving door" of superintendents.

"The key to any well-functioning organization is its consistency, which in turn will lead to cohesiveness throughout the district," he said.

Montoya is a Shiprock High School graduate and an Army veteran. He earned an associate degree from San Juan College.

He worked for a decade with CCSD as an hourly employee and a non-certified administrator, having negotiated on behalf of the union and the administration.

He also worked with state entities and has sought public office, including the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission in 2010.

Rose Nofchissey

Rose Nofchissey is concerned about educational opportunities for the community, that is why she is running.

CCSD is a unique community that ranges in bilingual and bicultural citizens, so the educational needs are not the same as other school districts, she said.

"As a school board member, I will push for qualified leadership who know how to work with teachers, parents and community leaders. It's also very important that our leaders are honest and knowledgeable about fiscal responsibility," she said.

Rose Nofchissey

For Nofchissey, one challenge facing the district is communication.

To operate an effective district, its leadership needs to have a communication system between teachers, parents, students and the community, she said.

"Another challenge is the fact that Navajo families are all different in the range of acculturation," she said.

She added there are many family issues that impact student achievement.

"I may be wrong, but coming from a more traditional upbringing, I tend to think that the loss of Navajo language and culture teachings in the home have caused much confusion in our young people," Nofchissey said.

As a school board member, she would support "well developed" culture and language programs.

Nofchissey has worked in several areas of education since 1975, including teaching at Navajo bilingual schools and at elementary, middle and high schools.

She has worked for schools in Rough Rock and Window Rock, both in Arizona, and for CCSD and at Navajo Preparatory School.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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