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Editorial: APS owes families truth on Jimmy Carter shake-up

Parents of students attending Albuquerque Public Schools’ Jimmy Carter Middle School have been largely left in the dark about events surrounding the recent administrative shake-up at the school. The information that has been released has been vague, at best, and that’s unfair to the school’s stakeholders and the taxpayers who pay for the school in the first place.

We know there is a police investigation into “serious allegations of misconduct by a substitute teacher.” APS has said the allegations did not involve violence or sexual assault.

The sub, Claude Carroll, was placed on leave pending the outcome of the investigation. Principal Amy Mahr, and assistant principal Frances Chavez were also placed on paid leave during the investigation. Following the investigation, both Mahr and Chavez were transferred to different positions, Mahr becoming director of APS’s AVID, or Advancement Via Individual Determination, a college readiness program, and Chavez becoming assistant principal at Sandia High School. Carroll resigned effective March 2, according to the district.

So what was so horrible to warrant dismantling Jimmy Carter Middle School’s leadership team in the middle of an academic year, but not bad enough to warrant firings? APS isn’t saying. The district can hide behind the no-comment “personnel action” boilerplate, but that doesn’t make a parent feel good about sending their kid back to Jimmy Carter or a taxpayer good about footing the bill. Such a vacuum of information encourages rumors and misinformation, making the situation worse. Students, parents and the public have a right to know what happened.

Contrast APS’ handling of this incident, whatever it is, to the swift handling of the Rio Grande High School special education teacher who allegedly slapped a student with Down Syndrome. Travis Castillo, 28, was arrested and charged with child abuse after another teen recorded video of the incident, authorities say. Rio Grande’s principal was forthcoming with parents, informing them of the arrest in a letter and telling them it was an isolated incident between teacher and student.

Because there was a criminal arrest, APS had no choice but to release the information. That’s not the case in the Jimmy Carter incident, and APS officials are taking full advantage of that. They would do well to remember transparency is always the best policy.

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.