Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez announced today, May 25th, the appointment of three new principals for the 2023-24 school year.  They are Valerie Apodaca, as directing principal of Nina Otero Community School, Charlotte Ault, as principal of Ramirez Thomas Elementary School, and Melissa Kovac, as principal of Sweeney Elementary School.

“It’s an honor to advance such esteemed leaders to principalships in our district.  All three – Valerie Apodaca, Charlotte Ault and Melissa Kovac – are well-versed in our innovative programs to improve learning.  They will enter the 2023-24 school year fully prepared to build on this year’s momentum and advance student learning going forward,” said Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez. 

“Each new principal matches extremely well with their school communities.  In addition to her outstanding instructional leadership skills, Ms. Ault brings to Ramirez Thomas Elementary a strong background in bilingual education and helping students attain educational and life success.

“Ms. Kovac, another proven leader, returns to Sweeney Elementary School where she was a kindergarten teacher for five years.  She is very familiar with the school and its community and brings expertise in building working relationships with students and families.

“And Ms. Apodaca, who has served as interim principal since March, will ensure a smooth transition in August.  Nina’s staff are excited to have someone who is so knowledgeable about the school as directing principal.  She has provided excellent leadership since March,” he said.

“We greatly appreciate our outgoing principals.  While Ms. Apodaca has served as interim principal at Nina Otero Community School this year, we wish the very best to Loretta Booker, the longstanding principal at Ramirez Thomas Elementary, and Veronica Vigil, who recently took the helm as principal at Sweeney Elementary, as they move to new undertakings," he said.

Apodaca has served as interim principal since March 2022, managing Nina Otero’s day-to-day operations, developing and implementing strategic plans, performing teacher and staff evaluations, overseeing program development and training and coaching staff.  She first served at Nina Otero in 2015-16 as an elementary teacher.

Apadoca said, “I am excited to accept the position as principal of Nina Otero Community School. It is an honor to serve such incredible staff, students and community. I look forward to sharing my passion for education and continuing to build a culture of excellence. As a leader, I am committed to fostering a safe learning environment, where every student has access to a high-quality education.”

Apodaca holds a Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of New Mexico and a Master of Education from Grand Canyon University.

Ault has served since July 2021 as assistant principal at Santa Fe High School.  From May 2020 to July 2021, she worked in SFPS’ Curriculum & Instruction Department as the Comprehensive Literacy State Development (CLSD) grant coordinator, implementing a $2.7 million grant from the New Mexico Public Education Department to build students’ literacy skills, biliteracy and English language development in birth to grade 12.

Ault said, “My passion is bilingual education and working with English language learners.  I’ve spent the majority of my career working within bilingual education – from higher education all the way to kindergarten. The staff at Ramirez Thomas has a wonderful reputation for supporting all learners and I’m excited to be joining the team. I can’t wait to begin to work with the families, students and teachers to expand possibilities for all.”

Ault holds a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and History from the University of Mississippi, a Masters in TESOL from Texas A&M University and a Masters in Educational Leadership from New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU).

Kovac, a graduate of SFPS and native Santa Fean, received the prestigious Milken Educator Award in 2016.  She has served as assistant principal at Gonzales Community School since June 2020, working to establish and maintain cooperative working relationships with students and families based on trust, mutual understanding and respect.

Kovac said, “I am excited and honored to be reunited with the Sweeney Community as the new leader.  I look forward to enhancing the learning environment for students, teachers and families.  I am dedicated to improving the lives of children through education and love.  My time with my Gonzales Community School family has been an invaluable experience.  I am grateful to have served as the assistant principal and will greatly miss the community.”

From 2018-20, she served as a sixth grade teacher at Amy Biehl Elementary School, where she was the lead teacher for the sixth grade team.  From 2010-18, she was the lead teacher for the school’s second grade team.   In 2015, she was named a Partners in Education Teacher Who Inspires.  In 2013, she received a professional commendation from SFPS for exemplary service.

Kovac received a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from NMHU, graduating cum laude in 2005, and holds a Masters in Educational Leadership from NMHU.