In the latest move in his decadeslong education career, Scott Elder will become the acting superintendent of Albuquerque Public Schools, boosting his salary from $152,000 to $225,000 a year.
The current chief operations officer will step into the role July 1 after Superintendent Raquel Reedy retires.
Reedy served as an interim before she officially took over the district, and during that period she made $200,000 a year, according to APS.
Elder’s contract says his $225,000 annual salary – that is subject to budget approval – can be increased if teachers get a raise.
It outlines Elder’s term from July 1 to June 30, 2021, or when a permanent superintendent is hired.
“In the event the contract is not renewed or extended, or when a permanent superintendent is employed, the acting superintendent shall continue to be employed by the district until at least June 30, 2022, in the administrative capacity as chief operations officer at the COO yearly salary for which he was previously employed,” the contract says.
The 53-year-old has been the COO for four years. Reedy selected him for the role on a temporary basis after his predecessor died.
Later, he was chosen to fill the role permantently.
Before he worked in APS’ main office, Elder had a career in schools that started in the ’90s.
But at first, the native New Mexican says, he didn’t know he wanted to go into education.
“When I came out of college, I sort of had the idea that I was maybe going to be an attorney because I liked the speaking aspect and the deep-thinking aspect,” he said. “But I really didn’t want to jump right into more schooling, so I took some time off. And in that interim, just to really do something, I did a little substitute teaching and discovered that I really liked being around kids and I really liked the energy of schools.”
After getting his license to teach, he began teaching at Highland High School in 1991. That began a nearly 30-year education career that included stints as principal at McKinley Middle School and Highland and Sandia high schools.
He told the Journal that some of his greatest professional achievements were at these schools, including bringing Highland’s graduation rate up 17 percentage points and boosting attendance at McKinley.
Both of his sons attended Sandia. Elder went to Albuquerque Academy.
APS family tree
Elder’s family has a long history with Albuquerque Public Schools.
“My mother worked for the district for 20 years. She was the graphics illustrator and worked down in graphics for quite a while,” he said.
Elder’s grandfather was a school board member off and on from 1945 through 1969, he said.
And his understanding is that his great-grandfather was also a board member, starting in 1892.
“We’ve been tied into APS for a very long time,” he said.
His wife of 26 years, Deborah Elder, is APS’ executive director for innovation.
Passing the torch
About a week ago, the APS Board of Education named Elder acting superintendent.
He described his leadership style as “honest, open-minded and decisive,” later adding “collaborative” to the list.
Elder says he wants to remove barriers for students and staff and to help them do their jobs effectively.
And he doesn’t anticipate turning processes upside down when he takes over.
“I’m not going in to whip up some change. I think change is just an inevitability of what is going on in the world around us,” he said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elder says he and Reedy share a devotion to the APS community, but where they differ is in decision-making.
“She’s probably more willing than I am to wait on a decision and really build more consensus. I think she has great patience, and I think sometimes I get impatient,” he said. “That may be a difference. I like to get things to move, and that’s good sometimes, and sometimes it has its drawbacks.”
Board votes 5-1
The APS Board of Education approved Elder’s contract Monday morning, discussing the details behind closed doors and voting in public.
Tension swirled when it came time to cast votes, which ultimately resulted in a 5-1 decision.
Board member Lorenzo Garcia was not present and member Peggy Muller-Aragon voted “no.”
Muller-Aragon said she opted out of the executive session and voted “no” because she believes the public should have been privy to the salary information before the board voted.