The recent death of board member Lorraine Price left the five-person Santa Fe Public Schools board one member short. At Thursday’s meeting, the remaining board members opted to immediately fill the District 5 seat.
Enter SFPS’ newest board member: Sascha Anderson, a communications professional and parent of SFPS students. Anderson also serves as Mayor Alan Webber’s re-election spokeswoman.
Anderson filed documents to run for the seat in the upcoming Nov. 2 election; Price had not done so prior to her death in late August. The Santa Fe County Clerk verified Anderson’s signatures this week, securing her place on the ballot. With no competition, she will assume her elected role in January 2022. Board President Kate Noble is running unopposed in District 3 for re-election.
Noble proposed that the new board member begin immediately instead of waiting for Anderson’s term to begin in January. “This way we won’t really spend any time without District 5 having its own board representative,” Noble said. “Which I think is very important as that is the system we have in a representative democracy where each of us represents a certain portion of the school district.”
The other board members welcomed Anderson’s early start. “I worked with Sascha and I think she’s a great choice for this. She will be our representative come January so it makes a lot of sense to bring her in now,” District 1 member Carmen Gonzales said.
Though Anderson’s role as a representative for District 5 began immediately after the unanimous approval by the board, Noble noted that the board would have a swearing-in ceremony for the newest member at the following meeting scheduled for Sept. 16.
After welcoming Anderson to the team, the board held a memorial for their late colleague.
Price, an educational leader and advocate who served on Santa Fe’s school board for eight years after spending decades in the classroom teaching and leading schools, left a rich, respected educational legacy as a longtime advocate of equity in schools, they said.
“We cannot quantify what Lorraine gave to this district, she was fierce, she was fearless, she was amazing and we have gained so much from her that is incalculable,” Noble said.
In a statement from Santa Fe Public Schools’ former superintendent, read by Noble, Veronica García wrote, “I’m deeply saddened by the sudden loss of an amazing woman, board member, officer and educator. She exemplified grace under fire and showed tremendous courage in the challenges she faced. We’ve lost one of the great ones, but we’re all better for it because of her public service, her impact as an exemplary educator and her social justice advocacy.”
Anderson, the mother of three daughters, two of whom attend Santa Fe Public Schools—the other is too young for the district—tells SFR she hopes to carry on Price’s work pursuing equity in the district, efforts that she says SFPS has been making for a long time.
Anderson serves as a member of both the district’s Equity and Inclusion Committee and the superintendent’s Diversity and Equity Council, which the Public Education Department required all districts in the state to establish in response to the 2018 Yazzie/Martinez court ruling.
“I think my goal is to see the schools move towards a community school model and I think that’s already happening,” Anderson says, noting how the schools have benefitted her own family. “A community school can serve many of the needs of the students from family engagement to those wraparound services to education,” she says.
On Price’s legacy, Anderson admits, “I do not have her experience, just her incredible experience, but I think we share a lot of the same values. I just hope that I honor the work that she’s done within the district.”
Thursday’s meeting also featured a request from the National Education Association - Santa Fe union, for a student and worker vaccine mandate. Grace Mayer, the union president, told the board, “NEA Santa Fe recommends...that the district and Board of Education mandate that all students attending in-person instruction that are 12 years of age and older, as well as all school staff, including contractors, be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine unless the present a valid medical exemption.”
Mayer communicated educators’ concerns to the board, noting “As you know our cases of COVID-19 are increasing, there’s a lot of anxiety around the safety of our students.”