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Approval rating for APS superintendent at 36%

Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal

After more than five years as Albuquerque Public Schools superintendent, Winston Brooks has the approval of 36 percent of likely Albuquerque voters, according to a new Journal Poll.

The poll found that 34 percent of voters disapprove of Brooks’ performance, 12 percent had mixed feelings and 18 percent didn’t know or wouldn’t say.

Brooks said he wishes his approval rating was higher, but he said city voters who aren’t parents may not follow education closely or know much about his performance.

“I think it indicates the apathy we see in school board elections, where 3 to 6 percent of registered voters come out and vote,” he said.

Brooks said an approval rating for a superintendent, who is hired by an elected school board and does not run for office, is not comparable to the approval ratings for elected officials. Elected officials run against an opponent, mobilizing supporters and presenting voters with a choice, he said.

A Journal Poll last year found Mayor Richard Berry and Gov. Susana Martinez, both Republicans, had approval ratings of 68 percent and 69 percent, respectively.

Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc., which conducted the poll, said Brooks’ ratings were consistent across ages, ethnicities and political affiliations.

“I suspect that voters recognize that test scores and graduation rates have improved, but yet we have a long way to go,” Sanderoff said.

APS has a graduation rate of 70.1 percent, not including charter schools authorized by the district. Districtwide, 52 percent of tested students are proficient in reading and 42.4 percent are proficient in math.

The poll, conducted by phone, surveyed voters with a track record of voting in municipal elections.

Support for Brooks is the same among Democrats and Republicans – 36 percent – which Sanderoff said shows Brooks’ resistance to Martinez’s policy initiatives hasn’t had much of an impact.

“The fact that party affiliation is not a predictor is interesting to me,” Sanderoff said. “There’s been occasional conflict between the governor and the superintendent, but yet all of that does not appear to be affecting the superintendent’s approval rating.”

Brooks and Martinez have clashed over a number of issues, including teacher evaluations and Martinez’s proposal to hold back all third-graders who aren’t reading at grade level.

“Whatever conflict they’ve had doesn’t seem to be affecting public opinion. If it was, he’d be doing better among D’s and less well among R’s,” Sanderoff said.

In contrast, Brooks has a collegial relationship with Berry.

Brooks said he is pleased that he has the same support among Democrats and Republicans because he views himself as a moderate.

APS Board President Martin Esquivel said he is pleased with the progress APS has made under Brooks’ direction, of which some voters might not be aware.

“In terms of understanding the day-to-day intricacies of operating the school district, I think it’s difficult for anyone to get an idea of that based on snippets in the newspaper and on TV,” Esquivel said. “I think the major issue is, ‘Has he made us better in terms of graduation rates over the past five years?’ and I think the answer to that is a resounding yes.”

Brooks’ strongest support came from voters between 18 and 34 years old, of whom 45 percent approve of his job performance. Brooks said he thinks this is a good sign, because that age group probably includes young parents and recent graduates, who have close interactions with the school system.

The Journal Poll’s findings are based on telephone interviews of 402 voters likely to vote in coming municipal elections who also had voted in an Albuquerque city election in 2011 or 2009. Interviews were conducted Sept. 3-5.