Governing Council for the 2019–20 School Year

Senator Mark Boitano, Council President


Senator Mark Boitano served for 16 years in the New Mexico State Senate as a citizen legislator and retired in 2012. He helped craft and sponsor the 1999 Charter Schools Act that allowed for the creation of charter schools statewide. In addition, he introduced measures in the Legislature to create teacher, parent, and student compacts, increase high school graduation requirements, and implement greater local governance in the public school system. Mark graduated from Regents College and received a B.S. in Political Science and Sociology. He has been honored by the N.M. Coalition of Charter Schools, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, as a 'Business Star' by the Association of Commerce and Industry, and received a 'Leader' Award, twice, from the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce. He is president of Boitano & Associates, a real estate company specializing in sales, investments and property management. He and his wife Cory are proud parents of four children. Senator Boitano brings his knowledge and expertise of real estate, school facilities, charter school law, education policy, and business to the Governing Council of New Mexico Connections Academy.

Paul Gessing, Council Vice-President


Mr. Gessing has served as President of the Rio Grande Foundation, New Mexico’s only free market think tank, based in Albuquerque, since 2006. His work has appeared in newspapers and journals such as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, National Review Online, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, the Albuquerque Journal, and other media. His work with the Foundation has focused on public policy with an emphasis on improved transparency, and accountability for state and local government throughout New Mexico. An MBA graduate of the University of Maryland and B.A. in political science graduate from Bowling Green State University, Mr. Gessing brings his knowledge and expertise of public policy and business background to the Governing Council of New Mexico Connections Academy. Mr. Gessing will be a valuable resource to the Governing Council with his focus on accountability and business.

Jerry Schalow, Council Treasurer

Rio Rancho

Mr. Schalow is the President of First Santa Fe BanCorp, a regional financial services organization in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Mr. Schalow has a B.A. from Texas Tech University in Business Administration.

Patrick Chavez, Council Secretary

Bernalillo County

Mr. Chavez is a licensed professional engineer in the state of New Mexico. Mr. Chavez is also a LEED Accredited Professional who has over 16 years of engineering experience with varied functions in a wide range of water, wastewater and stormwater related projects. Mr. Chavez received his B.S. and M.S. from the University of New Mexico in Civil Engineering. Mr. Chavez knows the importance of education in achieving your goals and is proud to be the first member of his paternal family to graduate from college. As a professional in the STEM field and as a parent who is interested in educational options for his daughter, Mr. Chavez adds a unique perspective on the Governing Council.

Jeanie Armstrong, Council Member


Ms. Armstrong graduated with a B.S. in Biology from the University of New Mexico and an MBA in Healthcare Administration from University of Phoenix. She has worked in healthcare quality for over 15 years in New Mexico and now with several hospitals across the United States. She and her husband, Alex, and are proud parents of two New Mexico Connections Academy high school students since 2015. New Mexico Connections Academy has been a positive experience for her family over the past 3 years. She appreciates the opportunity to be able offer her time, knowledge, and expertise of quality and process improvement to the Governing Council, so that more families can benefit from the New Mexico Connections Academy experience.