When your elective leaders’ actions on behalf of taxpayers become the running gag around town – even making the national news – it’s time to re-evaluate them.
This week, the common refrain across the Duke City is, “I wish someone would pay me $80,000 to go away,” courtesy of the feckless Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education and embattled – and now-former – Superintendent Luis Valentino.
The board decided Monday to pay Valentino a month’s salary and a lump sum of $80,000 and hand him a three-paragraph, highly complimentary letter of reference.
And that has many asking, “If that’s what you get for doing an unacceptable job, where do I sign up?”
After less than three months with APS – and just 12 school days – Valentino was shown the door Monday, presumably for hiring a suspected child predator who jumped bail to come to New Mexico.
Yet in return for his letter of resignation, the board gifted him with a letter that says, in part: “During his tenure in the school district, Dr. Valentino provided leadership and vision for the District under increasingly difficult circumstances while maintaining a strong commitment to quality instructional programs and initiatives. We found Dr. Valentino to be personable, willing to listen to the opinions of others including the APS community, and responsive in his work with board members.”
And the incongruity of holding 12 hours of meetings behind closed doors to ultimately cut someone loose while publicly praising his leadership and vision has taxpayers scratching their heads while the board reaches into their wallets.
It was barely a year ago the board handed then-Superintendent Winston Brooks $350K in a secret deal to go away. The Journal and KOB-TV have filed a lawsuit seeking to open up the factual findings in that report.
After launching a search for his replacement, then relaunching it after the application window closed, the board hired Valentino. And as Tuesday’s front-page announced, now “He’s gone.”
There are those who might argue that APS got off cheap, considering Valentino was holding a three-year contract worth $720,000. But that’s not the point. The school board hired him, and if his actions were so egregious as to merit firing him after a few weeks, it should have fired him, not paid him off and provided him with a letter of recommendation.
The secretary of education and the courts should ensure this irresponsible payoff meets every guideline required in PED rules, including “a detailed statement outlining (a) the dispute between the local board and the administrator; (b) a description of the negotiations leading to the settlement agreement; (c) a detailed accounting of the damages which have been or may be incurred, including any setoff due to the administrator’s mitigation of any damages; (d) a copy of all pleadings to be filed with the court relative to the dispute; and (e) a copy of the administrator’s current employment contract.”
The public is depending on PED and a judge for the accountability the APS school board has failed to provide regarding its latest superintendent drama.
And despite the folks cracking wise around town, that, along with this latest buyout, is no laughing matter.
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.