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Jaime Chavez Named New Principal

Fifth SFHS Principal in Five Years
Jaime+Chavez+Named+New+Principal

Santa Fe High’s next principal will be current Assistant Principal Jaime Chavez, who will take the helm at the beginning of the 2024-25 school year. Ms. Chavez will be the school’s fifth acting principal in five years, and the third hired from within the school during that period.

Current Interim Principal Jack Lain, who was called out of retirement by Superintendent Larry Chavez to fill the vacant principal position when David Vincent resigned in January, will remain principal for the remainder of the school year.

Mr. Lain plans to stay on staff until the beginning of next year to ensure a smooth transition and to “lay the groundwork for the new school year,” as Mr. Chavez stated in an SFPS press release.

“I am honored to be entrusted and given the opportunity to take on the role of directing principal,” Ms. Chavez said in a statement released by the district. “I look forward to continuing the many great works that are in process at SFHS as well as working diligently alongside our SFHS community to strengthen and secure SFHS’ success and that of our students,” she said.

Ms. Chavez has worked at nearly every level, and in nearly every position, in New Mexico schools for the past 24 years. She taught a variety of courses, including Language Arts and English as a Second Language, to students in grades four through twelve in Albuquerque Public Schools from 2007 to 2017. Ms. Chavez made use of her bilingual skills during those years, which she says “provided [her] the ability to support [English-language learning] students and their families.”

Having completed a counseling internship at UNM, Ms. Chavez served as a school counselor at Mountain View Middle School, in Rio Rancho, from 2017 to 2022. Ms. Chavez was then hired as assistant principal at Santa Fe High in 2022.

Ms. Chavez earned her bachelor’s degree in education from New Mexico Highlands University in 2001 and revisited NMHU in 2017 to earn her master’s degree in Guidance and Counseling, with a concentration in School Counseling and Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She also holds an Educational Leadership Certification from NMHU, which she received in 2018.

Shortly after Mr. Lain’s arrival as interim principal, a principal interview committee was formed, composed of several experienced teachers and staff, a parent representative, and Mr. Lain. The members reviewed applications and conducted interviews with three candidates who made it through the preliminary rounds of review.

“To ensure equality during the interview process,” committee member Kate Gomez said, “we asked each interviewee the same 16 questions.” She said the questions ranged from “educational philosophy, to curriculum beliefs, to classroom experience.”

Mr. Lain added that “big building management” was also a quality of a competent principal that the committee considered. “Ultimately, we were looking for someone whom we could guarantee will stay here for a while,” Mr. Lain said.

The committee submitted their reports and recommendations to Superintendent Chavez, who made the decision days later. “Her knowledge of the school’s community, passion and experience will provide continued dynamic leadership of Santa Fe High,” he said.

Mr. Lain has been more than just a placeholder in the principal’s chair, despite entering in a limited role.

Mr. Lain retired in June 2022 after serving a 30-year career in New Mexico education – the last nine of which were as principal of El Camino Real Academy. Before that, he was an assistant principal at Capital High School, he taught social studies and special education at Zuni and Cochiti community schools, and he worked as a bilingual teacher at E.J. Martinez and Sweeney elementary schools.

“I told the superintendent before I left that I would return if he needed me,” Mr. Lain said. Sure enough, Superintendent Chavez took Mr. Lain up on that offer. “He gave me a phone call, and I said yes,” Mr. Lain said.

Mr. Lain arrived in time to have some overlap with Mr. Vincent, shadowing the former principal during his daily operations.

Mr. Lain wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with the school when he first arrived, however, as he is hosting an exchange student enrolled at SFHS. “I knew things about Santa Fe High before I even arrived,” Mr. Lain said. “I got to know the school through the parent community, which I think is very valuable.”

Mr. Lain worked closely with the “amazing staff and support team” in his first two months on campus, crediting them for his successful integration into the school’s systems. He also called Stan Mascarenas, the dean of students, an “unsung hero” in keeping the school rolling during the turbulent time of change.

Mr. Lain’s main goal, aside from facilitating a smooth transition to the next principal, is to restore school culture and “love for learning.” His first move in furthering this initiative was reinstating an in-person honor roll ceremony, which took place in early February.

Principal Lain will be absent during April, as he follows through on a plan to travel Europe, but will return shortly after to complete the school year as interim principal.

“I wish I had looked at this position eight years earlier,” he said.

Mr. Vincent’s abrupt departure left many in the school community shocked.

Mr. Vincent was hired in a fashion similar to Ms. Chavez, promoted from assistant principal to principal after the previous principal (in Mr. Vincent’s case, Renee Salazar Garcia) resigned. After taking the helm in November 2022, he left after just 20 months as principal.

Mr. Vincent chalked up his decision to wanting a change and needing to leap. “I want everyone to know there is nothing pushing me out,” Mr. Vincent said. “In order to grow professionally, you have to take chances.” He also added that he knows one thing about his future: Education is still his calling, and he wants to stay in Santa Fe with his wife and grown daughter.

However, there was no shortage of speculation that Mr. Vincent left because of the Standards Based Grading system.

Mr. Vincent said to the Tattler, “SBG has its place. However, the way it has been implemented has been hard on a lot of people and hasn’t been done in a manner that includes students, teachers, and parents.”

At the same time, before even being asked, Mr. Vincent set up the question himself and answered it straight up: “Is SBG the reason? No.”

Mr. Vincent told several teachers that being “micromanaged” by the district was one of the reasons he cut his time short with SFPS. But he also said he is still loyal to SFHS and that he “wants everyone at Santa Fe High to shine.”

Only time will tell if the game of musical chairs will end with Ms. Chavez, or whether principals will continue to churn in and out of Santa Fe High.

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