The Albuquerque Public Schools Board president and a top-ranking APS administrator held a lengthy meeting Tuesday with Gov. Susana Martinez and her public education chief, seeking to push past tension between the state’s largest school district and the Martinez administration.
The meeting came less than a week after APS Superintendent Winston Brooks was reprimanded and given a three-day unpaid suspension by the APS board for social media comments he made about Public Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera, a Martinez appointee.
Brooks did not take part in Tuesday’s meeting, which was held in Albuquerque and lasted for more than two hours.
APS Board President Marty Esquivel said he sought out the meeting in an attempt to improve communication with the Martinez administration.
He was joined in the meeting by APS Chief Operations Officer Brad Winter, who is serving as the district’s interim superintendent during Brooks’ suspension.
Esquivel told the Journal the meeting with Martinez, Skandera and the governor’s deputy chief of staff Scott Darnell was a “productive first step” toward a better relationship.
“To that end, we’ve agreed to put aside all past differences and agreed as a first step to have APS and PED meet together with teachers and staff to discuss implementation of the teacher evaluation system and other issues including graduation requirements,” Esquivel said.
A Martinez spokesman also described the meeting as productive, adding that Esquivel had relayed his commitment to ensuring Albuquerque teachers and principals receive training and information about the evaluations.
“As has been the case from day one, we remain committed to working with APS – in a collaborative way and within the framework – to implement a teacher evaluation system that fits the needs of the district and state,” Martinez spokesman Enrique Knell said in a statement.
The Republican governor and top-ranking APS brass, specifically Brooks, have clashed repeatedly in recent years.
Martinez, who took office in 2011, has publicly criticized APS for spending too much money on its communications staff and for Brooks’ travel.
Brooks has vocally opposed some of Martinez’s education initiatives, including the controversial teacher evaluation plan that PED imposed administratively this year, after failing to gain legislative approval the previous two years.
Last month, a nonprofit group headed by a former Martinez deputy Cabinet secretary sent out fliers that criticized APS and its superintendent. In response, Brooks said the group would be better served using its money to buy “socks and underwear” for New Mexico children.
More recently, Brooks posted seemingly disparaging comments about Skandera on his Twitter account – including a “moo, moo-oink, oink” tweet – that landed him in hot water with the APS board.