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Current APS leader talks history with the district, transparency

Scott Elder, Albuquerque Public Schools superintendent finalist, answered questions on Tuesday night as part of a virtual session, which are being conducted with each of the APS superintendent finalists this week.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s a job Scott Elder has been doing since July, and he thinks he should keep doing it.

“I think what I’ve demonstrated over the last year really is that I have the skills to lead a large, urban district,” said Elder, Albuquerque Public Schools interim superintendent. “And (I) bring a unique skill set because of the fact that I am local, that I know the players, that I know the politics and that I’m ready to do this job.”

Elder, one of the three remaining finalists for the APS superintendent post, answered questions online from students and other community members Tuesday night. He also addressed questions from the APS Board of Education in a livestreamed interview.

He said he’s lived in Albuquerque his entire life, he’s drawn to the people and the state’s landscape, and he really loves the food.

He also said he has a nearly 30-year history at APS, including as a teacher and principal.

Before taking the reins from Raquel Reedy, he had been the chief operations officer since 2016.

Elder also talked about his mother’s ties to APS. She was a working artist and eventually became the district’s graphics illustrator — something he pointed to when asked about backing fine arts education.

“When we talk about supporting the arts … I’m definitely in,” he said.

Elder admitted the district wasn’t doing a good job in performance and digital art education, adding that funding is a real hurdle.

As far as APS’ reputation in the community goes, Elder said it is important for the district to be transparent.

“We are the biggest animal in the state as far as education, and … we’re going to ruffle some feathers sometimes. There’s always going to be somebody who is a little upset with decisions we make,” he said. “But I think we could help ourselves by, one, continuing to be transparent and when we make mistakes not be afraid to step up and admit them and try to work through them. I don’t know that we’ve always done that really well.”

He also said that eventually he would like to work on communication at the school level to home in on what’s being shared with the community to help shine a light on the good and work to improve the bad.

“I think we need to tell people that it’s OK to share data that’s uncomfortable, share data that says, ‘We’re going to have to work harder’ or presents a picture that says, ‘Maybe we have to change the way we do things,’ ” he said.

Bolgen Vargas, a self-employed consultant and former superintendent of Rochester City School District in New York, will go before the community and the school board next, on Thursday night.

Ignacio Ruiz, assistant superintendent for the Clark County School District in Nevada, took part in the first virtual forum and interview, on Monday night.

Community forums are 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., and interviews are 7:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and all are livestreamed.

The link is at APS.edu.

The Board of Education is planning to make a decision on the candidates by the end of the week.

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