- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 1, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Albuquerque Public Schools must enter another superintendent search after its new school chief resigned following the hiring of an administrator facing child sex abuse charges.

And some worry that amid all the unrest just as the school year began it may be hard to attract strong candidates to lead one of the nation’s largest school districts.

Superintendent Luis Valentino resigned Monday after only two months on the job following his hiring of Jason Martinez. Valentino tapped Martinez to lead the district’s technology division. But the district didn’t conduct the required background check.

Martinez is facing felony sexual assault on a child charges in Colorado. The case involves two children. His lawyer says Martinez will be exonerated.

Before the hiring controversy, Valentino also faced resistance for wanting to get rid of a politically-connected administrator. That administrator, Don Moya, who served under former Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, later filed a whistler-blower lawsuit.

In court documents, Moya’s attorneys alleged Republican Gov. Susana Martinez was displeased Moya wasn’t supportive of her education reforms and Valentino rescinded a promotion.

Valentino started his position in June following a national search to replace former Superintendent Winston Brooks, who was ousted in 2014 following an undisclosed investigation.

The board and Valentino agreed to part ways with a $80,000 buyout - a buyout Gov. Martinez blasted.

“We expect leaders to lead. If they can hire their leader, they should take responsibility for firing, not buying him out and providing a letter of recommendation,” the Republican said. “The taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for a dysfunctional school board, which hired him in the first place.”

Retired Albuquerque teacher and education reformer Moises Venegas said national candidates might be reluctant to apply for the job since it appears old-style New Mexico political factions control the district. Albuquerque Public Schools also has developed a reputation as a dysfunctional place to work, he said.

“They might be able to pull out a candidate from the streets of New Mexico but attracting a strong candidate from out of another states will be difficult,” Venegas said. “Who’d want to walk into this?”

Even Santa Fe schools officials who applied for the superintendent job previously have not said they’d apply for the position again.

But Willard Daggett, founder of the Rexford, New York-based International Center for Leadership in Education, said he doubts the recent controversies will discourage educators from applying for the Albuquerque top stop. “The board needs to do a very deep vetting process,” Daggett said.

If candidates conclude the board is deeply divided, then those candidates may not apply, Daggett said.

Albuquerque Public Schools has close to 90,000 students and around 14,000 employees. It has a larger student population than Boston’s school district and has long been a target for education reformer to experiment with the latest fads.

Ralph Arellanes, president of the LULAC Albuquerque chapter, said he believed Albuquerque Public Schools can select a superintendent who could navigate the various factions and institute real reforms.

“But the board needs to listen to the community,” Arellanes said. “And I think the new superintendent can be someone from New Mexico.”


Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at https://twitter.com/russcontreras.

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