ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Facing sharp public criticism for its unanimous decision to give former superintendent Luis Valentino an $80,000 buyout, month’s salary and a letter of recommendation to resign, the Albuquerque Public Schools board pulled no punches defending itself at its meeting Wednesday.
The regularly scheduled board meeting started with the usual formalities followed by a public forum mostly filled with disgruntled parents and teachers taking the board to task.
“It’s ethically wrong on all levels to be paid for a job that is poorly done,” said a third-grade teacher.
“I think going forward there should be removal of all board members other than district 5,” said Jacob Gil, an APS parent now spearheading a recall effort for almost the entire board.
The outrage is primarily centered over Valentino receiving a buyout after hiring a deputy superintendent with pending child sex abuse charges in Colorado and allowing him to work without a background check. That buyout was approved unanimously by all seven board members.
At the end of the meeting, all seven of those board members responded to the public outcry. Many of them defended the board’s decision as a tough, but necessary one that kept the district out of a costly and lengthy legal fight with Valentino.
“I’m one elected official who’s not a gambler and I won’t gamble with our money,” said Steven Michael Quezada, APS board secretary.
“We did what we thought was best for the kids to move on to put the focus back where it should be,” said Peggy Muller-Aragon, APS board member.
Several board members also lashed out at the media and critics who they say have been unfairly judging them and crossing the line with threats and coarse language.
“Recall me if you must but the fact of the matter is I’m proud of these people on this board, this district,” said Lorenzo Garcia, APS board member.
“How dare you judge me!” said APS board president Dr. Donald Duran. “But go ahead, judge me. The newspaper has. Go ahead, but I know who I am.”
Several board members also said public outrage should be directed at the current teacher evaluation system and a lack of classroom funding.
The district’s buyout of Valentino still needs to be approved by a judge and public education secretary Hanna Skandera