A state House committee on Friday tabled two pieces of legislation aimed at stopping public school superintendents, college presidents and university coaches from getting what some lawmakers referred to as a “golden parachute” when their contracts are terminated early. The House Education Committee action effectively killed both bills, sponsored by Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque. The decisions came on bipartisan votes, with some lawmakers and members of the education community arguing that the measures would hinder the ability of school districts and colleges to recruit high-quality candidates for top jobs. Much of the discussion Friday centered on recent controversy involving Robert Frank, the former president of The University of New Mexico who agreed to step down in December under a deal with the board of regents that allows him to continue collecting his annual salary of $350,000 through May. Under the agreement, Frank can continue working at UNM in a $190,000-a-year tenured position.
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.
The House Education Committee addressed two bills that seemed to target issues within the Albuquerque Public Schools. The committee voted unanimously to tighten educator background checks but failed to pass legislation that would add restrictions to school district superintendents in Albuquerque and Las Cruces. Both bills stem from recent issues in Albuquerque where the past two superintendents left with large severance packages and a deputy superintendent was hired without a background check while he had criminal sexual abuse charges on his record. Rep. David Adkins, R-Albuquerque, is sponsoring HB 127 which would require all educators to complete a fingerprint based background check before they start work. Currently, state statute does not outline a specific timeline for when a background check must be completed.
After finding out the Albuquerque Public School’s deputy superintendent never completed a background check in his short two months on the job, I decided to perform one of my own. The deputy, Jason Martinez, left APS abruptly after being in the headlines for clashing over a contract with the school district’s Chief Financial Officer Don Moya. Martinez wanted to award a contract to a vendor where his friend worked. Moya opposed the idea because Martinez’ old friend had been implicated in a kickback scheme at Denver Public Schools. We are counting down the top ten stories through the end of the year with expanded recaps or personal recollections from the three members of the team.
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.
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.
The acting superintendent for Albuquerque Public Schools could be in the position through the end of next June. The state’s largest school district offered Raquel Reedy the contract that could run through June 30 of next year. The offered contract could also end when the district finds a permanent superintendent. Reedy has been the acting superintendent since former APS superintendent Luis Valentino resigned amid scandal. The Albuquerque Journal first reported the news of the contract offer to Reedy. Reedy is the school district’s associate superintendent for elementary education.
The last few months have been filled with scandals in New Mexico, and this hasn’t escaped the notice of the nation’s most prominent newspaper. This week, The New York Times examined the unfolding scandals, which have been covered extensively by New Mexico Political Report, and their impact on the larger political narrative in the state. Albuquerque Public Schools
One of the most talked about scandals came in Albuquerque Public Schools after new Superintendent Dr. Luis Valentino accidentally sent a text message outlining that he wished to “go after” his chief financial officer to the CFO instead of its intended recipient, Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera. That incident brought renewed scrutiny on Valentino’s leadership, including his hiring of Deputy Superintendent Jason Martinez. It turns out that Martinez did not complete a background check required of all school personnel.