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APS reviews will focus on IT, HR and finance departments

APS Superintendent Luis Valentino has resigned

APS Acting Superintendent Raquel Reedy

Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal

Acting Superintendent Raquel Reedy has arranged for reviews of several Albuquerque Public Schools departments – a less formal process than the proposed systems audits that ignited conflict between former Superintendent Luis Valentino and Chief Finance Officer Don Moya, who is on paid administrative leave.

The reviews of APS’ finance, information technology and human resources offices will be done at no cost by personnel from other school districts as a courtesy, though APS will cover travel expenses, according to district spokeswoman Monica Armenta.

Reedy requested the IT and finance reviews from the Council of Great City Schools, a professional organization made up of 68 urban districts, which will select four to six staff members from one of the districts. Their visit has not yet been scheduled, Armenta said.

The human resources review, however, was begun last month by Austin Independent School District Chief Human Capital Officer Mike Houser, who was at APS Sept. 22. For his trip, APS spent a total of $1,306.

In an interview with the Journal, Reedy said she approached the Austin district because she knows Houser, who previously was APS’ director of employee relations. Two of Houser’s directors may make a follow-up visit as part of the review.

Reedy cited no specific concerns as motivation for the reviews but said she wants to assess how well the district is operating.

“I am looking at the organization and trying to take a really thoughtful approach,” Reedy said. “Is the way we are organized working? What parts are working? What parts need to be looked at?”

APS’ HR department has faced particular scrutiny since the revelation that former Deputy Superintendent Jason Martinez never completed a mandatory district background check that would have revealed assault and child sex assault charges in Denver.

Valentino and Karen Rudys, interim assistant superintendent for HR, offered very different accounts of what happened. Through her attorney, Rudys claimed she told Valentino verbally six times about the missing background check, while Valentino said he only heard from her twice.

Reedy declined to specifically tie the HR review to the background check issue, but she did note that the department’s staff levels were reduced during the recession. For instance, Rudys also serves as chief negotiator, which had been a separate position.

“HR was something that we always thought needed to be looked at carefully because this is a huge, huge district and certain departments have suffered budget cuts,” Reedy said. “I think we are seeing the results of that.”

Houser will offer his view of HR’s staffing in his feedback, she said.

In addition, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas in August began a safety assessment of APS to investigate allegations that protocols were breached over Martinez’s background check.

“The matter remains under review and the Office of the Attorney General continues to communicate with APS staff regarding the Jason Martinez incident and broader safety and security issues,” Balderas’ spokesman, James Hallinan, wrote in an emailed statement. “We will update the public when we have concluded our safety assessment.”

Reedy said the HR review is something the district can cite as an example of attempts to improve.

“I don’t have the whole picture – nobody does,” she added. “We need to get all the data and sit with stakeholders and prioritize, then move forward.”

There are no specific deadlines for Houser or Great City Schools to submit their reports to APS, Armenta said.

Houser and Rudys did not respond to requests for comment.

Before his resignation Aug. 31, Valentino had pushed for a thorough assessment of district systems like payroll and finance and was moving forward with a request for proposals. Armenta said she does not know the details of Valentino’s plans, but the district is required to go through the RFP process for contracts over $50,000.

Emails leaked to the media in mid-August showed Moya and Martinez fighting about the RFP, with Moya arguing that the audits would waste taxpayer dollars because they would provide little new information.

Valentino placed Moya on paid administrative leave Aug. 7. Shortly after, Moya filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Valentino, the APS Board of Education and New Mexico Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera alleging he was targeted for speaking out against a questionable RFP.

Martinez resigned Aug. 18. His trial on the child sex assault charges resulted in a hung jury. He is expected to be retried in March.

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