Thursday, February 03, 2011
APS Board Extends Brooks' Contract a Year
By Hailey Heinz
Journal Staff Writer
The Albuquerque Public Schools board voted unanimously Wednesday to extend Superintendent Winston Brooks' contract by one year, maintaining a three-year rolling contract.
Board members met in closed session with Brooks for more than two hours before moving into open session to vote. They did not make any additions to Brooks' contract, which provides him with annual compensation worth about $281,500, including a base salary and a $25,000 retirement annuity that increases by $5,000 per year.
The contract also requires the district to provide Brooks with a car, health benefits and a life insurance policy. Brooks said he is seeking one change to his contract and is working with APS legal counsel to arrange a way to avoid paying taxes on his life insurance policy. The board did not object, so long as there is no additional charge to APS under such a plan.
The board, fresh off an election of two new members, faced criticism for holding the contract vote before new members Katherine Korte and Analee Maestas are sworn in March 2.
Outgoing board member Robert Lucero, who did not run for re-election, said Wednesday he considers the contract vote an important responsibility.
"I've served on this board for quite a few years and never once have I shirked that responsibility," Lucero said. "And I know a lot of people have talked about waiting for this process, but I was elected to represent my district ... and all the students, and I take that very seriously all the way to the very last day."
Lucero also said Brooks is the best superintendent APS has had in Lucero's time on the board, which began in 1995.
"I think we're very fortunate at this time to have Superintendent Brooks," Lucero said. "I think that if I had a comparison of superintendents all the way back to Peter Horoschak, I would rank Winston Brooks as No. 1." Horoschak took over as superintendent in 1994.
Board President Martin Esquivel, who was re-elected Tuesday, said he advocated for delaying the vote.
"It might have bought a little goodwill in the community," Esquivel said after the vote. "But the board felt it was their right to make a decision."
This is the third time Brooks' contract has been extended since he was hired in spring 2008. His contract requires that his annual evaluation be taken up in January.
Brooks said the board asked him to develop better dialogue with teachers and principals.
"They emphasized that they want to see a more grass-roots effort," Brooks said.
Esquivel said the board gave Brooks a positive evaluation but that Brooks needs to work on his public image.
"There are some misperceptions about him that need to be cleared up in terms of his vision and approachability," Esquivel said. "It may be time to step back and assess how the community perceives him."
Esquivel said dramas with scheduling at Rio Grande High, coaches at La Cueva High and conflict between Brooks and his leadership team have sometimes overshadowed improved graduation rates and a focus on student achievement, which are the things the board likes about Brooks.