A jury in Denver found a former Albuquerque Public Schools deputy superintendent not guilty on child sexual assault charges. The jury found Jason Martinez not guilty on four counts in all. Two were for sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust and the other two were for sexual assault on a child with a pattern of abuse. Martinez faced those charges while working at APS last year. Martinez did not undergo a background check required of all school personnel before he abruptly resigned last summer after just two months on the job.
Albuquerque Public Schools has let go of its former Chief Financial Officer Don Moya, according to the Albuquerque Journal. The newspaper reports that APS didn’t renew Moya’s contract earlier this month after his medical leave time expired. Moya seriously injured himself in a motorcycle incident last fall, breaking both of his legs. Moya’s relationship with the school district has been strained since last summer. Last August, Moya raised concerns about a potential school district contract with a Denver IT company whose then-chief operating officer had previously gotten fired from Denver Public Schools for taking kickbacks from companies.
Albuquerque Public Schools has nearly 2,300 employees who have not been subject to a background check, an internal audit found. The employees are those who had been at the school district since 1999. The office of the Attorney General sent a letter to the district with recommendations on how to improve the process. Background checks in Albuquerque schools have become a more high profile issue following a scandal that found a high-ranking Albuquerque Public Schools executive resign just before NM Political Report broke news that he was facing trial in Colorado on multiple charges of sexual assault of a child. The former Deputy Superintendent of APS, Jason Martinez, was also facing domestic abuse charges and eventually was arrested in Colorado for breaking probation.
State Auditor Tim Keller is warning school districts of the possible consequences of not conducting background checks or following state-mandated licensure rules for school personnel. In a risk advisory issued to school districts Tuesday, Keller’s office writes that the “most obvious” consequence is “the potential danger to students and fellow school personnel.”
The risk advisory also warns that without proper licensing, the risk of embezzlement or misuse of public funds is increased and that a lack of qualifications can lead to incompetence. Not following the rules could also open up the district to litigation for negligent hiring or supervision. The advisory follows scandals throughout the state involving licensing for those working in schools. Perhaps the most shocking was in Albuquerque Public Schools, where a deputy superintendent facing a trial for sexual assault of a child was hired without a background check or even applying for a license to work at a school district.
Albuquerque Public Schools is now officially done with former superintendent Luis Valentino after a judge and the Public Education Department approved his buyout. The buyout, which was approved last week, means APS paid out $80,000 to Valentino to buyout the rest of his contract. Valentino also received his regular pay through October 1, despite resigning on August 31. This meant that, in all, Valentino received over $100,000 after his resignation from the agreement with the Albuquerque Public Schools board. In a letter from PED secretary Hanna Skandera in which she accepted the buyout, she said she was “deeply disappointed” at the buyout.
Denver jurors who heard the case of former Albuquerque Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Jason Martinez could not come to a verdict. A judge declared mistrial today after jurors couldn’t come to a unanimous verdict, according to the Associated Press. Martinez is facing charges for sexually assaulting two boys. Despite being charged with the crimes in summer 2013, Martinez was still hired on this summer as a top-level APS staffer by then-Superintendent Luis Valentino. Martinez never completed a background check for the school district, which maintains it never knew of his past until New Mexico Political Report broke news that Martinez’ was facing trial in Denver for sexual assault charges. The news came one day after Martinez abruptly resigned from APS.
New Mexico PBS recently sat down with our senior reporter Joey Peters to break down the scandal that engulfed Albuquerque Public Schools over the past month. In the segment, which aired over the weekend on New Mexico in Focus, journalist Sarah Gustavus interviewed Peters about how he found out that former APS Deputy Superintendent Jason Martinez’ previously undisclosed arrest charges of sexual assault of a child. Martinez also faces domestic violence charges. This revelation eventually led to last week’s resignation of APS Superintendent Luis Valentino, in large part because Martinez never completed a required background check. All school employees must complete background checks.
One of Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Luis Valentino’s most controversial administrative hires—besides his embattled former deputy superintendent—is Gabriella Duran-Blakey. Questions are being raised about whether the hire of Duran-Blakey, who is the daughter of Albuquerque school board President Don Duran, violates a state law that prohibits nepotism in schools. Valentino brought Duran-Blakey on in late June as the school district’s associate superintendent for middle schools. Former board member Kathy Korte, who’s been outspoken throughout the scandals that have engulfed APS this month, said the hiring violates APS policies and school board ethics. “What we’re looking at here is the daughter of a school board member who was hired,” Korte said.