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Mailed flier attacks APS superintendent on reform

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A hard-hitting flier aimed directly at the Albuquerque Public Schools chief hit the mail Friday, accusing Superintendent Winston Brooks of “putting up roadblocks to education reform.”

The mailer, the second one this week, is illustrated with color photographs of a bulldozer and a photo of Brooks. Both fliers were mailed by New Mexico Competes, a nonprofit that says it is engaged in “voter education, registration, and issue advocacy.”

This flier targeting Albuquerque school superintendent Winston Brooks hit the mail Friday. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

This flier targeting Albuquerque school superintendent Winston Brooks hit the mail Friday. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

The first flier criticized New Mexico’s old teacher evaluation system by comparing reading and graduation levels with what it said was a 99 percent rate “of APS teachers performing at (the) highest level,” but it did not target any individual.

On Thursday, Brooks told the Journal he believed the first mailer was politically motivated and misleading.

“I think it would have been better for this nonprofit to use the money to purchase socks and underwear for our kids than to put out this flier that most people don’t understand,” he said, adding that the 99 percent figure refers to teacher competency, not the number of teachers performing at the highest possible level.

Marty Esquivel, president of the Albuquerque school board, blasted the flier targeting Brooks as a “sleazy, inflammatory political tactic, an attempt to turn a policy debate into political warfare by demonizing Mr. Brooks.”

A spokeswoman for Brooks said Friday he would have no comment.

Sara Lister, New Mexico Competes’ executive director, is a former deputy Cabinet secretary in Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration. The governor has been highly critical of the position Brooks has taken against her administration’s educational reforms.

Earlier this week, for example, Martinez told the Journal,”Winston Brooks, by trying to stir (the debate) up with emails … does no justice, none, to the children he’s responsible for.”

Attorney General Gary King, a Democratic candidate for governor, accused Martinez of coordinating with New Mexico Competes on the Brooks attack. King, through his campaign, charged that the Republican governor is behind the attacks and called the private political group, “a secretly funded arm of Gov. Martinez’s re-election campaign.”

Martinez spokesman Enrique Knell denied the accusation.

“The Governor does not control this group and has not seen the mailer, but is glad there are common-sense and reform-minded voices in this debate,” he said in an email.

Esquivel said the increasingly heated debate was turning children into “political pawns.”

“We all need to step back, take a deep breath, and discuss reforms that will help education,” he said. “Our children don’t deserve this.”

“We should be having a discussion – a thoughtful, truthful discussion on this policy issue for the betterment of our kids,” he said. “Instead, we’ve sunk to the lowest point, and the debate has degenerated into tremendously irresponsible, trashy fliers.”

Lister, in an email late Friday, said Brooks is fair game.

“Winston Brooks has been blocking education reform for years, and we believe parents and teachers deserve to know about the misinformation campaign that he is waging at the taxpayer’s expense through his public relations and lobbying staff,” she said.

She declined to identify group backers or divulge how much has been spent on the fliers. The group is not required to disclose its donors.

Journal staff writer James Monteleone contributed to this report.