It all started with a text message from Albuquerque Public Schools superintendent Luis Valentino meant for Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera, saying he was “going to go after” APS Chief Financial Officer Don Moya. Instead, the text went to Moya himself and that kicked off an examination of APS.
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 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 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.
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.
With another superintendent out after a buyout and a new acting superintendent at Albuquerque Public Schools, it’s still unclear what the future holds for the position. Earlier this week, Luis Valentino resigned from his position as superintendent, the APS board announced Raquel M. Reedy as his replacement, at least in an acting superintendent capacity. After previous superintendent Winston Brooks resigned, the board hired Albuquerque City Councilor Brad Winter to fill the spot. Winter was interim superintendent for ten months. Brooks resigned last year after a board member hired a private attorney to look into a personnel matter.
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.
Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Luis Valentino, who’s had as rough a month professionally as one can imagine, is ending the month by taking vacation time. APS spokesman Rigo Chavez said Valentino took annual leave Thursday afternoon and was also out of the office Friday. Valentino is facing intense scrutiny amid controversy over the hire of deputy superintendent Jason Martinez, who had prior arrest records of domestic abuse and sexual assault of a child. Martinez did not undergo a required background check. Valentino is also under fire for his handling of APS Chief Financial Officer Don Moya, who filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the school district earlier this week.
Another five-plus hour closed door emergency Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education meeting led to no immediate decision on Superintendent Luis Valentino’s fate. Valentino has been under fire for the revelations that his handpicked deputy superintendent was arrested in 2013 in Denver on multiple charges of sexual assault of a child. APS never completed a required background check on Martinez that would have caught the arrest as well as a later arrest for domestic abuse. In an interview New Mexico Political Report on Wednesday, Valentino admitted hiring Martinez had been a mistake. Instead of making a decision, school board president Don Duran scheduled another emergency meeting next Monday for 7 am.