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Editorial: Reedy’s silence on $30K raise hurts APS accountability

CORRECTION: This editorial published in Saturday’s Journal incorrectly reported the amount of the salary increase Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Racquel Reedy received this year. The 11% raise is nearly a $30,000 increase, not $40,000. The error occurred in both the headline and editorial. It was reported correctly in the news stories.

Raquel Reedy has a big job. And her lack of public accountability is making it a harder one.

As superintendent of Albuquerque Public Schools, she is tasked with overseeing the education of tens of thousands of students and managing a sprawling agency with an annual budget of more than $1.4 billion. It’s paid for by, and is intended to serve, the taxpayers. So why won’t she tell those taxpayers how much they are paying her?

Raquel Reedy

Reedy’s continued refusal to disclose her recent raise is not just unconscionable, it’s incomprehensible. After weeks of radio silence, the district’s communications director confirmed “yes” via email to Journal reporter Shelby Perea’s “Is it fair to say she accepted this salary increase then?”

The law says taxpayers are entitled to know what their money pays for. As of last fall, Reedy was earning $248,727 annually. In July, an APS spokeswoman said an 11% raise for Reedy had gone into effect, which would have brought her annual salary to $276,186. Reedy’s contract stipulates she gets raises to reflect the average annual raises of teachers in her district. This year – with changes to get the lowest-paid teachers up to a higher minimum salary – the average was 11%.

The head of the local teachers union expressed concern Reedy got such a hefty raise when many teachers were receiving 7%, much closer to the 6% lawmakers allotted. And it appeared the intent was for all school employees, including administrators, to receive something along those lines. No one mentioned a possible 11% increase.

An examination of Reedy’s July 12 paystubs shows she got the 11% raise, then APS voided the check because teacher salaries weren’t finalized. But the district refused to further discuss Reedy’s paycheck while School Board president David Peercy said she might not have taken the full raise.

That question was finally put to rest Wednesday when communications director Johanna King emailed Perea: “The Superintendent’s salary based on the 2019 legislative appropriation, her contract, and the approval of the teacher’s negotiated agreement by the APS Board of Education will be increased by 11.04 % for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. The Superintendent’s Sept. 13 paycheck will reflect her new salary, which is effective as of July 1.”

Reedy, who through a spokeswoman in July said she would donate some of the raise, could have, should have, stepped up some time in the past two months with an explanation for her off-again, on-again raise. Taxpayers are owed an explanation. Just because the contract technically allows her to take the full 11%, was that really the intent when lawmakers approved sizable increases to help some low-paid teachers make a living wage? Donating a chunk to the APS Foundation is a nice step, but that doesn’t go to teacher salaries or APS operating costs. A better move would have been a public announcement she would not receive more than many of her teachers.

And there’s a larger issue here: Is Reedy’s compensation – and for that matter that of her leadership team – structured in the best way? Currently, her contract includes no ties to either student or educator performance. Neither did contracts for her two previous predecessors. As the largest school district in a state locked in a perennial battle to haul itself up from the bottom of the student achievement heap, APS’ board should finally address this. Why not mirror those in the private sector and sports worlds – a base salary with the opportunity for substantial bonuses based on achievements? Shouldn’t APS motivate and reward progress?

Reedy’s silence couldn’t come at a worse time. The district has right-sized its crucial maintenance and construction bond funding requests (voters rejected versions in the spring that would have raised taxes), and lower, more reasonable requests are on the Nov. 5 ballot.

So we now know Reedy got an almost $30K raise. It would be truly unfortunate if voters could not look past her silence and big pay hike when it’s time to vote for essential school maintenance and construction projects.

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.