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Editorial: Take Brooks’ contract extension off the table

The question before the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education this morning is not whether Winston Brooks can be an effective superintendent for the remaining two-and-a-half years of his contract – although that is an important issue that will have to be addressed.

What the board will decide today is whether Brooks should have his contract extended past June 2016.

And the clear answer to that would be “no.”

It’s nearly impossible to envision an extension for the leader of 140 Albuquerque public schools, nearly 90,000 students and 15,000 employees on the heels of his return from a 3-day suspension for inappropriate and sexist comments directed at the state’s education chief on his public APS Twitter account.

Despite this year’s yet-again dismal statewide National Assessment of Educational Progress results, Brooks’ efforts remain directed at engaging in personal combat designed to keep any education reform effort mired in confusion – even though he offers no real, detailed alternatives.

But it was his recent “Moo, moo, oink, oink” Twitter outburst comparing Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera to livestock – sent to a TV reporter as part of a flurry of tweets during an APS board meeting because his mind was “wondering” – that finally pushed people into action.

On Nov. 13 party leaders of the state House and Senate wrote to APS Board President Martin Esquivel that the tweets were “inappropriate and unprofessional” and thanked members for the “swift and appropriate disciplinary action” of suspending him for three days. The letter, signed by state House Speaker Ken Martinez, House minority leader Rep. Donald E. Bratton, Senate President Pro Tem Mary K. Papen and Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, also expressed appreciation for Esquivel meeting with Skandera and the governor to talk about school reforms. That was an important step Brooks would never have taken. As leaders in Santa Fe and other districts have done, APS needs to work with the system to make it better.

On Nov. 18, leaders of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Forum and the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce wrote the board saying they were “very concerned that at a time when our education system needs balanced and collaborative change, the superintendent has not taken a leadership role. Solutions and compromise are impossible to reach when the level of discourse is not civil or professional.”

This wasn’t Brooks’ first such outburst. Among others, he banished a former associate superintendent; she is suing for sex discrimination. According to testimony in another lawsuit, he said a female assistant principal at a high school had “slept her way to the top.” It’s not difficult to see a pattern here.

Brooks has more than two years left on his $250,000-a-year contract. Whether he serves that will be up to the board. But it’s clear his behavior doesn’t warrant an extension for additional time on the taxpayers’ dime.

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.