ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque Public Schools’ new deputy superintendent, Jason Martinez, resigned Thursday – one day after Superintendent Luis Valentino learned that his top deputy still hadn’t completed a required criminal background check despite having been on the job since June, an APS spokesman said.
Martinez’s departure, effective today, comes one week after emails came to light showing him embroiled in an argument with APS Chief Financial Officer Don Moya, who is still on administrative leave over the incident.
Martinez was Valentino’s handpicked deputy, who started at APS the same time as Valentino. At the time, Valentino said that he needed an instruction and curriculum expert and that Martinez would be paid $160,000 a year.
APS’s statement Thursday cited only “personal and family commitments” as the reasons Martinez submitted his letter of resignation. The statement also includes praise from the superintendent and an assurance that a replacement will be found soon.
APS spokesman Rigo Chavez said the events are “unfortunate, but it was Mr. Martinez’s decision.”
Asked whether the incomplete background check played a role in Martinez’s decision to leave APS, Chavez said he didn’t know.
But the district spokesman did confirm that it is “unusual for someone to have actually started work” at APS without completing a background check.
Chavez said APS human resources officials first alerted Valentino to Martinez’s background check issue about two weeks after Martinez started working at APS.
“At that time, he (Valentino) met with Mr. Martinez, and Mr. Martinez said he was going to complete the background check,” Chavez said. “But he (Valentino) said he was informed yesterday (Wednesday) that he had not yet completed his background check.”
Asked whether APS human resources officials should have told Valentino sooner that Martinez had not submitted to the check months into his job, Chavez said HR was “following up with Mr. Martinez because it is his responsibility to complete the background check.”
The APS spokesman confirmed that the other new hire brought to the district by Valentino – Chief of Staff Toni Cordova – did complete a background check.
Background checks are required under district policy, which says that “Albuquerque Public Schools shall conduct background checks, based upon fingerprint identification, of all prospective employees.”
“From what I understand, generally, they (new hires) are offered employment on the condition that they complete the background check,” Chavez said.
Generally, anyone discovered to have convictions for crimes against children would be disqualified from working for APS, Chavez said. He said employees in certain roles face other stipulations.
For instance, people who will be driving APS vehicles can’t have convictions for driving while intoxicated.
Valentino praised Martinez in his statement.
“I want to thank Mr. Martinez for his service to the district. … He has been a valuable member of the district leadership team. I believe that the position of deputy superintendent is an important one for the district, and I will be seeking to fill it in the near future,” Valentino said.
Martinez had come under scrutiny after emails were leaked last Friday showing him fighting with Moya about a possible request for proposal on an APS information technology assessment.
Martinez wanted the RFP sent to a company that recently employed a disgraced former Denver Public Schools administrator he had worked with in Denver.
In the Aug. 6 emails, Moya and Martinez wrangled over who has the authority to cancel the RFP, with Moya saying he believed he had raised reasonable concerns about the RFP that need to be addressed.
On Aug. 7, Valentino attempted to text New Mexico Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera, saying he was going to “go after” Moya for running “roughshot.” Instead, the text accidentally went to Moya, who was placed on paid administrative leave later that day.
Ellen Bernstein, Albuquerque Teachers Federation president, said that despite the central office upheaval, “teachers are just going to keep doing their jobs.”
Before joining APS in June, Martinez had most recently been vice president of the education solutions group at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a publishing company. From 2000 to 2012, he was a high-level administrator with Denver Public Schools, concluding his career there as deputy of academic operations.