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.
Jason Martinez appeared in court in Denver on Thursday for violating his bond on two criminal cases he faces in Colorado. According to KOB-TV, Martinez will face $100,000 bond on each of the cases and be required to wear an alcohol and GPS monitor. The former Albuquerque Public Schools deputy superintendent will also face restrictions on contact with minors; he will only be able to have contact with minors while under supervision. The Associated Press also reported the increased bond. Martinez was arrested in 2013 for multiple felonies of sexual abuse of a child, as first reported by New Mexico Political Report.
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.
One day before an emergency school board meeting that could decide his fate with Albuquerque Public Schools, Superintendent Luis Valentino is speaking with media about the controversy that has rocked the school district this month. New Mexico Political Report spoke with Valentino midday Wednesday about the controversial text message that started it all, the hire of a deputy now in jail in Denver for breaking his pretrial conditions for charges against him of sexual assault of a child and what exactly Valentino’s potential future with Albuquerque Public Schools would look like. Here is Valentino addressing the scandal in his own words, starting with the first dispute, which involved APS Chief Financial Officer Don Moya’s opposition to an audit of the school district’s IT systems.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed. New Mexico Political Report: Why does the IT systems need an audit? Luis Valentino: it wasn’t just about that system.
The former Albuquerque Public Schools deputy superintendent who is facing child sexual abuse and domestic violence charges was booked into Denver jail on Wednesday. The Albuquerque Journal first reported the news on Wednesday, citing online court records. The newspaper says Jason Martinez is being held without bond. A spokeswoman with the District Attorney’s office in Denver confirmed the news to New Mexico Political Report. The spokeswoman, Lynn Kimbrough confirmed that he is being held in the Denver Detention Center.
New Mexico Political Report senior reporter Joey Peters appeared on KUNM Tuesday afternoon to talk about the scandal enveloping Albuquerque Public Schools. Peters was on during All Things Considered on Tuesday and spoke about being the first to report on the mistaken text message APS superintendent Luis Valentino sent to Chief Financial Officer Don Moya and how he was the first to report that former APS deputy superintendent Jason Martinez is facing trial in Colorado for sexual abuse of a child. Audio of the five-minute conversation with Elaine Baumgartel is available on KUNM’s website. While the story started with the text message sent by Valentino to Moya, when the text message appeared to be meant for Public Education Department secretary Hanna Skandera, it quickly ballooned beyond that. Martinez was then accused of attempting to steer a possible contract for an IT assessment toward the technology company of a former work colleague, one who was fired from Denver Public Schools for accepting kickbacks.
As Albuquerque Public Schools remains in the thick of scandal, Gov. Susana Martinez is ordering a review of background check policies in all New Mexico school districts. Susana Martinez announced Tuesday that the state Public Safety Department and Public Education Department will conduct a “thorough compliance review” to make sure each district is performing “timely” background checks of its employees. The order follows New Mexico Political Report’s revelation last week that now former APS Deputy Superintendent Jason Martinez was arrested in 2013 in Denver on charges of sexual assault of a child. Jason Martinez, who was also arrested earlier this year on two violent assault charges, is facing trial in Denver this October. A warrant is currently out for Jason Martinez’ arrest for breaking pretrial conditions that bar him from leaving Colorado without court approval.
A Denver district judge agreed to revoke two bonds for Timothy Jason Martinez. The order from Judge Martin Egelhoff came late Monday afternoon, the same day the District Attorney’s Office filed the motion to revoke the bonds. This means an arrest warrant is now out for Martinez, who resigned from his role as deputy superintendent of Albuquerque Public Schools last Thursday. “As a standard practice, we have reached out to his attorney to let him know of the motion and warrant,” Denver District Attorney spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough wrote in an email Tuesday morning. Martinez’ arrest warrant is just the latest in a ballooning APS scandal that’s involved alleged retaliation against an administrator, a missed background check of an alleged pedophile and a whistleblower lawsuit implicating the state’s education secretary and its highest office—the governor—in the controversy.
The Attorney General is calling on a review of Albuquerque Public Schools’ policies on hiring and a security assessment following the news that a former deputy superintendent is facing child sexual assault and domestic abuse charges. “There is simply no explanation for exposing any of our children to an individual who has any violent or sexual criminal charges in his background,” Attorney General Hector Balderas wrote in the letter to APS superintendent Luis Valentino. Martinez never underwent a background check. It was only after this that New Mexico Political Report found out that Martinez was facing criminal charges for sexual abuse of a child. APS said they did not know about the charges until New Mexico Political Report reached out to the district for comment.