Thursday, September 20, 2007
Board Members: Superintendent 'Checking Out'
By Andrea Schoellkopf
Copyright © 2007 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer
Superintendent Elizabeth Everitt has made it no secret that there will be another school district in her future after she retires from Albuquerque Public Schools next June.
But some on the school board fear she may already have "lame-duckitis," with nine months still left on the job.
She took a personal day of leave on Sept. 5, when the board at a packed meeting decided school police should become a fully armed, stand-alone department.
It has been one of the most contentious issues for APS in recent years.
Everitt also had a relatively low profile during recent pedophile accusations against substitute teachers, leaving most of the APS response to the communications department.
"I think she cares about the school district, but she's checking out," board member Marty Esquivel said, citing poor lower-level decisions during the pedophile allegations and her absence at the Sept. 5 meeting.
"We don't seem to be functioning with a superintendent who's focused," Esquivel said. "I think we have a case of lame-duckitis."
"My first job is to keep this district moving," she said.
Others defend Everitt and say she has been available.
"I have not seen her checking out on anything," said board president Paula Maes. Berna Facio agreed, saying, "I think she's still giving her all."
Board member Mary Lee Martin who has been through several superintendents in her 20-year tenure said while she feels Everitt is still on the job, she wasn't pleased about her absence on Sept. 5.
Martin said she hadn't known Everitt would be gone until she saw associate superintendent Linda Sink sitting in Everitt's chair.
"I was actually kind of upset she was not at the meeting with the police issue," Martin said. "I thought it was a very important issue for the board."
Martin said she didn't think Everitt's associate superintendents knew enough about the issue to cover for her though Sink did not have to answer many questions that night.
Even board member Robert Lucero a staunch defender of Everitt said he was "a little concerned" that Everitt wasn't there.
"But she's been pretty accessible for me," Lucero said. "She's always there when I call her. That's all that matters to me."
Everitt said she doesn't plan to share her travel or career plans with the board unless her name becomes public as part of another superintendent search or she accepts another job.
"It's really my personal business," Everitt said. "I will be retiring at the end of the year. What the board is focusing on (is) their replacement, and their own search. I will continue to give 110 percent."
Everitt said she started looking for work immediately after announcing in July that she plans to retire from APS.
"I've got my finger in the pie in several spots right now," Everitt said. "I won't be discussing any of my applications until I've decided which job I will accept."
She later added that she would tell the APS board if her name was made public as a finalist in another district.
Esquivel, an attorney who specializes in open government issues, also questioned why APS' human resources director was allowed to keep secret the names of schools that had employed substitute teacher Robert Ashley, who has been charged with voyeurism of a child.
Esquivel said Everitt should have been "front and center" and made the decision to release the records to the public immediately, rather than after an article about APS' refusal to do so appeared in the Journal.
APS also faced criticism about how it handled the original complaint against Ashley. The administration did not contact local law enforcement about a principal and her staff's concerns. It wasn't until a day later that a concerned counselor contacted the Sheriff's Department, which launched an investigation.
Everitt met with principals about the situation, appeared on local TV news shows, gave an interview with a local radio station and was quoted in a Journal story on Sept. 12 as saying the district "made a mistake" in not releasing the information.
Meanwhile, Everitt has 286 days left on her contract.
With personal days accrued and those she'll earn this year at a rate of six hours per two-week pay period Everitt is eligible to take off about four months of work before she retires.
Since July 1, she has taken only 53 hours, or nearly seven days, APS spokesman Rigo Chavez said.
Everitt said she can't use the time to leave before spring, though, because she wants to maintain her eligibility for retirement benefits from New Mexico.
"She's entitled to take her annual leave whenever she wants," said Maes, who must sign off on the superintendent's annual leave.