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APS won’t reveal details of Jimmy Carter Middle School shake-up

It was enough to uproot the principal and assistant principal of a local middle school during the school year.

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Jimmy Carter Middle School. (Courtesy of APS)

It was enough to start a hunt for a principal in a district with hundreds of other job openings to fill.

And it was enough for a substitute teacher under the microscope to resign.

But the public doesn’t know what “it” is.

Earlier this year, Jimmy Carter Middle School’s then-principal Amy Mahr and then-assistant principal Frances Chavez were put on paid leave during an investigation into “serious allegations of misconduct by a substitute teacher.”

The substitute teacher, Claude Carroll, was placed on unpaid leave in February. He resigned effective March 2, according to Albuquerque Public Schools.

After the investigation, Mahr and Chavez were reassigned to other positions within APS.

But what happened in between remains unclear.

The Journal filed document requests under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act for information regarding the reassignment, the internal investigation and emails surrounding Mahr and Chavez.

APS declined to release those documents.

Rather, the state’s largest school district cited “Matters of Opinion” under IPRA as the reason the records are staying internal.

“Matters of Opinion” is defined in the law as “Letters or memorandums which are matters of opinion in personnel files or students’ cumulative files.”

“The records have been reviewed and these records cannot be released because they are excepted from release in compliance with New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act (NMIPRA) NMSA 1978, ยง14-2-1 A (3) Matters of Opinion,” wrote APS records custodian Jeannie Rose Chavez in an email.

An APS spokeswoman declined to comment further.

But the information requested by the Journal is a public record, according to the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, a nonprofit and nonpartisan group that promotes government transparency.

“The information that is being sought is public record,” said Gregory Williams, an officer on the FOG board of directors. “APS is acting as if all personnel information is off limits to the public, but that’s not what the law says. The law has a very narrow exception for matters of opinion.”

Williams noted the reasons Mahr and Chavez were reassigned are facts, not opinions.

“APS can redact from the reports anything that is matters of opinion, but the facts and reasons of reassignment must be provided,” he said.

The district notified the public in February that it was conducting an internal investigation and said the Albuquerque Police Department was looking into the situation.

“Students and parents are entitled to know exactly what’s going on,” Williams said.

An APS Police Department records request also didn’t produce any documents.

“There is no police report or incident report available regarding Amy Mahr and Frances Chavez,” wrote Jeannie Rose Chavez in another email.

APS previously has said the allegations were not violent in nature and did not involve sexual assault.

Mahr declined to comment and attempts to reach Chavez or Carroll by phone and email were unsuccessful.

A notice to the Jimmy Carter community was posted on the school’s website March 7, announcing the search for its new principal.

APS spokeswoman Johanna King previously said Mahr is now serving as a district director of AVID, or Advancement Via Individual Determination, a college readiness program. Chavez is now an assistant principal at Sandia High School.

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