New APS leader's contract approved - Albuquerque Journal

New APS leader’s contract approved

Albuquerque Public Schools’ new superintendent, Luis Valentino, will make a little less money than his predecessor.

And while the contract has the same language as the previous superintendent’s that in practice made it a three-year rolling contract voted on annually, the school board president said it’s likely there won’t be an extension vote until the final year.

On Friday, the APS school board voted unanimously to approve a three-year contract for Valentino, running July 1 through June 30, 2018, that will pay him a $240,000 base annual salary – $10,000 less than the district’s last school chief.

Valentino will come to APS from the San Francisco Unified School District, where he is the superintendent of curriculum and the chief academic officer.

“I am eager to begin the work of transforming APS into a high performing and nationally recognized school district,” Valentino said in an APS news release. Valentino was not in Albuquerque on Friday.

In addition to his salary, Valentino will receive a supplemental retirement plan, which the district will pay a total of $85,000 toward over the next three years.

Both in terms of salary and benefits, Valentino will make less than former APS Superintendent Winston Brooks.

Before he left the district, Brooks was earning a base salary of $250,000, and the district was paying $51,500 annually toward his supplemental retirement plan.

A key similarity between Valentino’s and Brooks’ contracts is their language concerning extensions, which is identical.

Under the contract, the school board “shall” vote each year whether to add a year onto the end of Valentino’s contract, just as it did with Brooks.

The board extended Brooks’ contract four times – one year each time – before voting against an extension in 2013.

That vote came shortly after Brooks had landed in hot water for tweeting a disparaging remark about then-Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera.

Last August, the board negotiated a buyout of Brooks’ contract and his resignation.

Because the board had extended Brooks’ contract in previous years, he still had two years left on his deal, and the board ended up paying him $350,000 to buy out those two years.

Had there been less time left on Brooks’ contract, it is likely APS could have bought out his contract for less.

APS school board President Don Duran said Friday that while the contract language on extensions didn’t change, the practice of extending the superintendent nearly every year might.

“We heard the community pretty loudly,” he said, noting people were upset about the money paid for Brooks’ buyout.

Duran expects the board will likely wait to extend Valentino’s contract until he is in his final year – not because he won’t be doing a good job – but to avoid the financial risk, he said.

Board member David Peercy had a similar take Friday. He also said the board may not choose to extend Valentino’s contract until he is in his final year.

Peercy added, however, that each year the board will make the decision to extend just like it says in the contract.

“It has to be a board decision every year,” he said.

Since August, APS has been working under interim Superintendent Brad Winter, who had retired as APS chief operating officer last spring. Winter has said all along that he had no interest in pursuing the permanent superintendent position.

Winter will stay on as the interim superintendent through June until Valentino arrives.

School board members have not said why they wanted to replace Brooks.

Board President Analee Maestas had hired an attorney to investigate an undisclosed “serious personnel issue” involving Brooks, and the board agreed to keep it in a secret personnel file.

Because the board did not make public information about how it decided to buy out Brooks, the Journal and KOB-TV filed an Inspection of Public Records Act request, which APS denied.

The Journal and KOB filed a lawsuit in January against the APS board over its refusal to make public several records, including an attorney’s report that led to Brooks’ resignation.

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