ByRobert Nott and Dillon Mullan, Santa Fe New Mexican |
New Mexico Rep. Willie Madrid, D-Chaparral, knows what it is like to go hungry. As a child growing up in the foster care system, he experienced malnutrition, which led to an eating disorder that still leaves him battling to control his weight. “That’s the hard facts of life,” Madrid said. “I struggle with my weight, have to manage diabetes. I had at-risk issues with food as a kid.”
More than a year after Albuquerque Public Schools denied her public records requests related to an incident involving her autistic son, Laura Gutierrez is taking the state’s biggest public school district to court. Her lawsuit, filed last month in Albuquerque’s state district court, alleges APS wrongly withheld public records responsive to requests she made in late 2015. She is asking for the school district to release the records and pay damages for violating the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). Under IPRA, public agencies can be fined up to $100 per day in damages for not fulfilling public records requests if the person who brings the suit can prove damages. “I have decisions I need to make as a parent, and without these records I can’t move forward,” Gutierrez said in an interview.
Near the end of his announcement for mayor last weekend, Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis took a shot at the city’s public school district, saying it needed “radical repair.”
“I believe now is the time to deconstruct this large unaccountable school district and replace it with smaller, more accountable school districts,” Lewis said at the business incubator ABQ Fat Pipe, which is located in the old Albuquerque High School building. “As your mayor, what I’ll do is lead the charge to fundamentally change education in our city.”
With more than 95,000 students in the school system, APS ranks as the 31st largest public school district in the nation—outsizing the public school systems in bigger cities like Detroit, San Francisco and Boston. Lewis is making the idea of breaking up the school district a part of his mayoral platform. To do so requires action from the state legislature. State Rep. David Adkins, R-Albuquerque, could be the lawmaker that takes on the issue this legislative session, which starts next week.
New Mexico’s largest public schools district put a top administrator on leave last Friday. Don Moya, the Chief Financial Officer for Albuquerque Public Schools, remains on paid administrative leave today, according to district spokeswoman Johanna King. King would not speak about why Moya was placed on leave, saying it was a personnel issue. On Sunday, the Facebook account of Stand4KidsNM, an advocacy group critical of state Education Secretary Hanna Skandera’s school reforms, published what appears to be a text message Moya received from APS Superintendent Luis Valentino. Update: APS confirmed to New Mexico Political Report on Tuesday that Valentino sent the text message.