Another controversial APS hire raises question of nepotism

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.

APS chief on annual leave

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.

One APS board member talked about scandal during meeting

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