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Editorial: Are 13 full-time ADs best use of APS funds?

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Albuquerque Public Schools has made much of its budget challenges in recent years.

This spring the district told lawmakers it couldn’t afford to hire enough teachers and build enough classrooms to comply with state law on class sizes.

It bemoaned the additional cost it says is involved in moving to a system where teachers are evaluated in great part on student achievement. It worried over the cost of implementing the new common core curriculum designed to ensure education is commensurate across grades, schools, the state and the nation. It cited budget pressures when it cut – appropriately – a million dollars a year in life insurance premiums it was voluntarily picking up for retirees.

Back in April, Superintendent Winston Brooks “recommended to the APS Board of Education that we move from a triage approach to budgeting to a long-term, sustainable plan more in line with our new economic realities.”

So given those new economic realities cited by the superintendent, does it make sense that the district plans to move to a system with 13 full-time athletic directors this fall? That’s 13 state-certified, Tier I, II or III high school teachers who will get an extra $7,000 or so each year to be full-time administrators and no longer teach classes – where they will have to be replaced.

All at an additional cost of around $800,000 a year.

Brooks says the dedicated athletic director positions, a proposal from APS board President Martin Esquivel, are a matter of equity: All high schools already have dedicated activities directors who don’t teach, and some high schools have athletic directors who don’t teach.

So instead of getting everyone to teach, or combining activities directors and athletic director duties, APS will bolster its corps of administrators and hire more teachers to fill class time.

Esquivel says the hours athletics directors put in go substantially beyond 40 a week, that responsibilities include tracking federal equity paperwork, student transfers, athlete eligibility and coaches’ licensing – as well as attending 140 events a school year. And he says it is important to be flexible on what constitutes educational purposes, because often athletics and/or activities are what keep students engaged in school.

Yet none of the current ADs apparently wants to stay in the job if it means giving up teaching and/or coaching. Brooks said this week if he doesn’t grandfather them at least a year he will have to hire 13 new people to fill the new AD positions.

Under the board’s plan, he will still have to hire more teachers to fill in for classes now taught by ADs.

Brooks says requiring everyone to teach “was not discussed really” and the district “decided not to go forward” with a proposal to merge the activities and athletics director jobs. The former puts classrooms first; the latter at least doesn’t increase non-classroom spending.

The importance of high school athletics notwithstanding, spending $800,000 a year on new non-classroom positions doesn’t seem to square with the budget realities Brooks appropriately recognized the need to plan for.

Full-time ADs may, in fact, be a need so pressing that APS needs to reallocate scarce resources to having more administrators. If so, it needs to make that case.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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