Albuquerque school board delays vote on Superintendent’s future

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – He’s staying for now. It took almost five hours for the Albuquerque Public Schools school board to decide it can’t make a decision on the future of new Superintendent Luis Valentino’s job with the district.

The school board called an executive session starting at 7:00 Thursday morning. Valentino’s job has been in hot water over the hiring of now former deputy superintendent and accused criminal Jason Martinez

After four and a half hours of deliberation, the board entered the room, called a session, gave a 60-second statement, then closed the meeting and left. The board is now saying that they will reconvene on Monday at 7:00 in the morning to figure out what they’ll do.

Thursday’s announcement of “no action” was enough to anger most of the community members in the small crowd that actually made it out to the meeting.

“You guys are a bunch of jokes. A bunch of jokes,” said one crowd member.

“It’s a bunch of bull****!” shouted another person in the crowd.

“The people of Albuquerque deserve better as do our students,” shouted community activist Dinah Vargas. “We get no justice, you get no peace!”

The board wasn’t keen on providing any explanation either. Here’s the entirety of Board President Dr. Don Duran’s words in the Thursday session:

“The APS Board of Education met on August 22nd, 2015 to discuss a limited personal matter regarding the employment status of the superintendent, and the matter discussed in the executive were limited only to those specified. Dr. Valentino and the board of education continue to work proactively in reviewing and exchanging information regarding these matters.  The board will be setting a meeting Monday at 7:00 a.m. in which time a final determination regarding this review will be made. That’s the statement from the APS board. Thank you and at this time, I will call for adjournment.”

–Dr. Don Duran, APS Board President speaking at Thursday’s meeting about Superintendent Luis Valentino.

Superintendent Valentino was not in the crowd Thursday.

After the meeting, reporters caught up with Duran in the hallway. When asked what’s the hold up, Duran said, “I think we’re moving proactively to make a decision that’s all I can tell you.”

When asked what his response was to frustrated community members, Duran said, “I can understand that and at this time, all I can tell you is that we are working proactively toward a solution.”

APS Superintendent Valentino has been at the center of a firestorm over the last two weeks, most recently for hiring his friend, now former deputy superintendent Jason Martinez. Martinez is behind bars in Denver where he was charged with molesting two boys two years ago.

Martinez was out on bond when Valentino hired him, but Martinez wasn’t supposed to leave Colorado. He managed to dodge a background check, then resigned a day before news reports surfaced about his past.

The district’s human resources director says she told Superintendent Valentino six times that Martinez was avoiding his background check. Valentino claims he only heard twice: once shortly after Martinez joined the district six weeks ago and last week when Martinez quit.

On Wednesday, Valentino told KRQE News 13 he thinks he’ll keep his job.

Thursday’s meeting was the second time the board has discussed Valentino’s future. A Sunday afternoon meeting lasted for nearly six hours. News 13 asked several parents and community members their thoughts about Thursday’s indecision.

“It’s almost like the board is not taking it serious,” said Jacob Gil, an APS parent.

“I think they need to dot their I’s and cross their T’s before making that decision,” said Margarita Caldera, an APS parent.

“He should be gone,” said Mary Anne, an APS parent.

“If he’s the one responsible for hiring people in the school system, yeah I think he should,” said Lakesha Chaney, an APS parent.

“They’ve had at least since Sunday to get together, talk to each other informally or to make the considerations,” said Steve Wilson, who attended Thursday’s board meeting.

Former Board Member Reacts

Former APS board member Marty Esquivel told News 13 on Thursday that he believes the board is overdue on making a decision. However, he also says he can understand the delay. Esquivel says the board, no one from the outside, is helping investigate what happened. Valentino is their only employee and he’s at the center of the controversy.

“So the board is a little hamstrung in terms of how did you gather your facts here,” said Esquivel. “The decision to terminate him could be very expensive; the decision to discipline him could be politically explosive which could lead to a public revolt.”

Besides the buyout and public relations concerns, Esquivel thinks the APS board could also be split on firing Valentino. Only six board members are expected to vote on the decision because board member Peggy Muller-Aragon hasn’t sat in on the meeting.

She stated she believes the meetings should be open to the public.

According to Valentino’s contract, he can be fired for “just cause”. The board could also discipline Valentino when it meets again Monday morning at 7:00 a.m.

Valentino makes $240,000 a year and he has almost three years left on the deal so APS could also be headed for another big buyout.

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