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Next APS superintendent may get shorter contract

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Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

A pair of board members say they don’t want to give Albuquerque Public Schools’ next superintendent a three-year rolling contract like the one approved for Winston Brooks.

The board this month negotiated a $350,000 buyout of Brooks’ contract, which was to have expired in 2016. Brooks was earning a base salary of $250,000 a year.

Brooks resigned over an undisclosed personnel issue. Neither the board nor Brooks has provided details. The board has hired former chief operations officer Brad Winter to be the district’s interim superintendent.

When Brooks was hired in 2008, the board approved a three-year contract with an annual option to extend the contract one year.

“I don’t believe in that (three-year rolling) contract,” board member Lorenzo Garcia said, who wasn’t on the board in 2008. “I don’t think it’s fiscally responsible.”

The board extended Brooks’ contract four times, before voting against an extension last fall. The vote came shortly after Brooks had landed in hot water for tweeting a disparaging remark about Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera.

Garcia said people are right to question the money APS paid to Brooks, but added that the current board negotiated the best buyout deal it could, given the two years left on his contract.

Board member Marty Esquivel said the district should think about a two-year contract for the next superintendent.

“A two-year contract is fair in terms of allowing the new superintendent to come in and do the job without immediate political pressure and (with) flexibility for the Board to not get locked into an untenable situation for too long,” Esquivel said in an email to the Journal. He is the only member who was on the board when Brooks was hired in 2008.

Others were less specific but said they, too, are thinking about the length of the next superintendent’s contract.

“We have to do things differently,” Garcia said, adding that he will research superintendent contracts around the country to help him decide what might be best for Albuquerque.

People should understand, however, that good candidates likely will demand job security in contract negotiations, board member Don Duran said.

“I just don’t think there is a simplistic answer,” he said, adding that contract decisions will be based in large part on who the board wants to hire.

Member David Peercy agreed. “You have to understand you’re not going to get a superintendent on a one-year contract,” he said.

Esquivel said he doesn’t think limiting the length of the contract to two years will greatly hurt the district’s search.

“The lack of a three-year contract could limit the candidate pool, but I do not see it as an absolute downside that would limit APS from attracting solid candidates for the position,” he said, adding that a stable board and a supportive community are often more important for candidates.

Board members have said they will begin working on the superintendent search soon – reviewing the process from 2008 and making changes – but will leave most of the major decisions until after the board’s February elections.

The new board should make those decisions, members have said. Three are up for election in February – Esquivel, president Analee Maestas and Kathy Korte.

Hiring a new superintendent could take up to a year, board members have said. During that time, the board plans to hold public forums to ask community members what qualities they want in a superintendent.

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