Near the end of his announcement for mayor last weekend, Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis took a shot at the city’s public school district, saying it needed “radical repair.”
“I believe now is the time to deconstruct this large unaccountable school district and replace it with smaller, more accountable school districts,” Lewis said at the business incubator ABQ Fat Pipe, which is located in the old Albuquerque High School building. “As your mayor, what I’ll do is lead the charge to fundamentally change education in our city.”
With more than 95,000 students in the school system, APS ranks as the 31st largest public school district in the nation—outsizing the public school systems in bigger cities like Detroit, San Francisco and Boston. Lewis is making the idea of breaking up the school district a part of his mayoral platform. To do so requires action from the state legislature. State Rep. David Adkins, R-Albuquerque, could be the lawmaker that takes on the issue this legislative session, which starts next week.
The state department that has been criticized for letting child abuse cases slip through the cracks is now under fire from some Albuquerque parents and school administrators for a lack of discretion when looking into student absences. Days before Albuquerque Public Schools teachers, students and parents were gearing up for a two-week winter vacation, one mother said she got an unexpected visit from Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) case workers. The mother recounted her story in an email to APS board members. NM Political Report obtained the mother’s email from CYFD, but the state agency redacted her name. “I asked through the door who it was, and a woman yelled in a very loud voice, ‘WE ARE WITH THE CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT DEPARTMENT AND WE ARE INVESTIGATING YOU AND YOUR FAMILY,’” the mother wrote.
A Denver district judge agreed to revoke two bonds for Timothy Jason Martinez. The order from Judge Martin Egelhoff came late Monday afternoon, the same day the District Attorney’s Office filed the motion to revoke the bonds. This means an arrest warrant is now out for Martinez, who resigned from his role as deputy superintendent of Albuquerque Public Schools last Thursday. “As a standard practice, we have reached out to his attorney to let him know of the motion and warrant,” Denver District Attorney spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough wrote in an email Tuesday morning. Martinez’ arrest warrant is just the latest in a ballooning APS scandal that’s involved alleged retaliation against an administrator, a missed background check of an alleged pedophile and a whistleblower lawsuit implicating the state’s education secretary and its highest office—the governor—in the controversy.
The Attorney General is calling on a review of Albuquerque Public Schools’ policies on hiring and a security assessment following the news that a former deputy superintendent is facing child sexual assault and domestic abuse charges. “There is simply no explanation for exposing any of our children to an individual who has any violent or sexual criminal charges in his background,” Attorney General Hector Balderas wrote in the letter to APS superintendent Luis Valentino. Martinez never underwent a background check. It was only after this that New Mexico Political Report found out that Martinez was facing criminal charges for sexual abuse of a child. APS said they did not know about the charges until New Mexico Political Report reached out to the district for comment.
Timothy Jason Martinez hasn’t just been arrested for sexual assault of a child, but also two violent assault charges. Earlier this year, Denver police booked the now former Albuquerque Public Schools deputy superintendent on two assault charges, both involving men. “The allegation is that on Jan. 25 he was involved in altercation with person he had an intimate relationship with,” said Denver District Attorney spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough. One of the allegations from the police report says Martinez struck a person with the side mirror of a car. Police issued a warrant for Martinez on Feb.
Attorney General Hector Balderas announced on Monday that he will look into the “safety breach” at Albuquerque Public Schools. “I am very concerned about the allegations that safety protocols were breached at APS, I’ve decided to initiate a safety assessment of the matter, and I will be communicating with the district today,” Balderas said in a statement. The school district has been at the center of controversy for weeks. The “safety breach” part appears to come from former deputy superintendent Jason Martinez. Martinez is facing trial for multiple counts of sexual abuse of a child, ranging from sexual abuse of a child from a position of trust to sexual abuse of a child-pattern of abuse.
Luis Valentino is still in charge of the school district, at least for now. A grueling five-hour special Albuquerque Public Schools board meeting over “a limited personnel matter relating to the superintendent” didn’t result in any immediate decision on Valentino’s position as superintendent of APS. Instead, another special school board meeting will take place Thursday at 7 am. Nearly the entire meeting occurred in executive, closed-door session. At the end of the meeting, school board President Don Duran read a statement saying the board had a “very thorough and rigorous discussion of the facts” with Valentino.
The Albuquerque Journal reported on Saturday night that APS superintendent Luis Valentino was told multiple times that his deputy superintendent did not have a completed background check. The state’s largest newspaper reported on a letter from APS interim assistant superintendent for Human Resources Karen Rudys in which she said that she informed Valentino multiple times about the lack of a background check for Jason Martinez. New Mexico Political Report revealed on Friday that Martinez, under the name Timothy Jason Martinez, was facing multiple charges related to sexual abuse of a child. Martinez’s trial is set for October. From that report: Martinez abruptly resigned from APS on Thursday.
Outgoing Albuquerque Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Jason Martinez had a reason to delay his criminal background check. On July 18, 2013, Denver police arrested Martinez, whose full name is Timothy Jason Martinez, on charges of sexual assault on a child from a position of trust and other felony charges. The case is still ongoing, with a trial date set for Oct. 9 in District Court in Denver. Martinez faces four counts, all of which allege sexual assault of a child.