August 19, 2015

One APS board member talked about scandal during meeting

Bernalillo County Commissioner and actor Steven Michael Quezada.

An Albuquerque Public Schools controversy prompted its most recognizable school board member to speak out one week after hitting the headlines.

APS school board member and actor Steven Michael Quezada.

APS school board member and actor Steven Michael Quezada.

At a Board of Education meeting on Wednesday night, Steven Michael Quezada addressed Superintendent Luis Valentino’s leaked text message telling one of his high-ranking administrators that he was “going to go after” him.

The text message appeared to be meant for state Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera.

“I’m really concerned about matters of personnel going to the Secretary of Education when I felt it should have been the first email I’ve gotten when I landed in Miami,” board member Quezada said at the meeting.

Quezada, a professional actor and standup comedian best known for playing DEA agent Steven Gomez in the AMC series Breaking Bad, said he was out of the country on business when the APS scandal unfolded. He said his phone “exploded” when he returned to the United States and again had cell phone service.

Quezada maintained that APS has long opposed Skandera’s education reform policies, the most controversial of which include A-F grades for schools and teacher evaluations heavily based on standardized test scores.

“At not one time in the whole three years I’ve been here on the school board has a teacher walked in here at any point supportive of the PED,” he said, “or even said one thing positive about teacher evaluations, or about PARCC, or about all this stuff.”

PARCC is the state’s flagship standardized test that contributes to half of the state education department’s evaluation for teachers.

Quezada maintained that because of the state’s education policies, “we don’t have a relationship with PED, and if you think we do, I don’t know who you’re talking to.”

“I’m going to try to think that maybe it’s perhaps my fault that some of this happened in the press,” he said. “And maybe relationships were made because maybe we didn’t speak [about] this to the people that we brought in and let them know that for the last three years everybody’s been totally against what’s happening coming from Santa Fe.”

After the meeting, Quezada and Valentino exchanged a few words.

“I told him, ‘Look man, I support [you]. Let’s move forward. Let’s do great things,'” Quezada told New Mexico Political Report. “He’s a very smart, educated man that brings great knowledge from big school districts to this community. He’s bilingual. He understands big issues that we think have been a big, gaping hole for APS.”

Valentino came to APS this summer after serving as an associate superintendent at the San Francisco Unified School District. His infamous text message went to APS Chief Financial Officer Don Moya, who was placed on administrative leave the same day that he received the text message.

He replaced Winston Brooks as superintendent. Brooks had his own problems with tweets about Skandera.

A string of internal emails obtained by New Mexico Political Report show that Moya clashed with the district’s plan to hire a company to assess its IT system. Moya called the plan a waste of public money and criticized APS Deputy Superintendent Jason Martinez for originally pitching the contract to a former co-worker who had been previously a part of a kickback scheme.

Other APS school board members wouldn’t comment directly on the Moya controversy.

“It’s really easy to make things black and white, and the world isn’t black and white,” school board member Barbara Peterson said in a brief interview.

School Board President Donald Duran said the board would soon meet with Valentino and “get an update on what is going on.”

Duran added that the school board doesn’t interfere with APS personnel issues.