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.
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.
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.