Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Chávez Targets School System; Mayor Seeks Right To Appoint Board
By Amy Miller
Copyright © 2006 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer
Mayor Martin Chávez, moving forward on his plan to gain control of the school district, said Tuesday he will ask lawmakers next year for authority to appoint board members.
Albuquerque Public Schools' seven board members are elected.
Chavez made his comments Tuesday morning at a breakfast meeting with local business executives.
"What I want is accountability," Chávez said later in an interview. "The problem isn't with teachers. I think the system is broken."
Superintendent Beth Everitt said in response that she would like to work with the mayor to improve schools. But she still believes students are best served by an elected board.
"I believe the public should pick who is on the school board," Everitt said.
The biggest problem with the mayor's plan, said administrators and board members, is that APS boundaries go beyond the city limits and beyond Chávez's jurisdiction.
APS covers the town of Los Ranchos and the village of Corrales, in Sandoval County, board president Paula Maes said.
She said she doesn't believe appointed boards operate more effectively than elected boards.
"Most school districts taken over by the city are not managed well," Maes said.
The mayor said the city's borders won't stop him from seeking control of APS. He said he would work with towns outside the city limits to make sure their residents are represented on the board.
"It's time for APS to stop giving everyone excuses," Chávez said. "There are ways to address the problem."
He said mayors in other major cities, such as New York City and Boston, have successfully gained a measure of control over local school boards in recent years, with what he believes are positive results.
The mayor's relationship with APS began to sour several years ago when his efforts to create a technology-themed charter high school faced stiff opposition from board members.
The school opened in 2005, but Chávez has since criticized the board for being resistant to change.
He also has said it has not been held accountable for failing to raise taxes to build schools on the rapidly developing West Side.
Chávez cites the district's high dropout rate and low graduation rates, particularly among Hispanic students, as further evidence that reform is needed.
He is looking at about 10 models for appointing and working with school boards.
The mayor said he knows his plan will face opposition, from parents as well as politicians.
"It's so bold, I think people will shy away from the idea," Chávez said. "But eventually, it will happen."