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Editorial: New APS leaders start year on the wrong foot

“It’s unfortunate that a personnel issue has been forced into the headlines on these first days of school when our focus should be on our students.”

– APS Superintendent Luis Valentino

How true. And it’s even more unfortunate to say that the tenure of the new chief of Albuquerque Public Schools has gotten off to a very rocky start.

That’s in great part because the district administration – old and new – helped push the so-called “personnel issue” into the headlines with its snarky “gotcha” style as well as a bunker mentality while avoiding accountability to the public that pays its salaries.

Worse, there seems to be no sign coming from the APS tower that there is any serious thought being given to demonstrating the leadership of the nation’s 30th-largest school district needs to get itself on a proper footing.

That would start with answering questions about what exactly Valentino’s handpicked deputy, Javier Martinez, was doing in his discussions with Advanced Network Management. The Albuquerque-based information technology company with offices in Denver says Martinez “directly solicited help” on a districtwide systems audit from an ex-employee and former colleague who had previously left Denver Public Schools in disgrace after a kickback scandal. Why CFO Don Moya was placed on leave right after questioning that deal. Why Moya opted to raise his concerns with an in-your-face email complete with criminal allegations rather than a face-to-face effort to resolve the seemingly reasonable concerns in a professional manner. Why rather than give a reasoned explanation to Moya’s concerns Martinez offered one of those “because I said so” responses.

And why Valentino responded in kind to the whole mess by misdirecting an equally inappropriate text message that tried to alert the state secretary of Education he was going to “go after” Moya for running “roughshot” – rather than working with the secretary to ensure any changes regarding financial oversight would not affect the district’s bond rating or balance sheet.

And while quick, but clumsy, with the fingers, the new head man at APS has doggedly refused to answer substantive questions about any of this.

Since Valentino and company don’t have much to say, perhaps the elected board will muster up the energy to address this embarrassing, at best, episode. The public deserves that much – with memories still relatively fresh of the expensive departure of Winston (of oink oink, moo moo texting fame) Brooks, who essentially was paid $350,000 in a secret deal just to go away.

APS has more than 88,000 students and 14,000 employees in 142 schools. It runs on state and local tax dollars, and it should go without saying its leadership should answer clearly and directly to the public.

Unfortunately this school year has started with that needing to be said. When the district’s leaders start being accountable for their actions, then the focus will move to the students, where it belongs.

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.