Troubles for an Albuquerque superintendent not new

Troubles for an Albuquerque superintendent not new

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Embattled Albuquerque Schools Superintendent Luis Valentino, facing calls for his resignation for hiring an administrator facing child sex charges, follows a long line of Albuquerque school chiefs who were ousted over various controversies.

Those school chiefs left the troubled district in the state's largest city amid complaints of favoritism, contentious tenures, and allegations of drug addiction.

But the latest flap could end a school chief's reign in just two months and could cloud the district's future from bond ratings to problems attracting talented job applicants.

"It's a disaster from a public relations perspective," said Tom Garrity, president of The Garrity Group Public Relations and a former Albuquerque superintendent. "It's beyond anyone's worst nightmare."

On Wednesday, the school administrator who faces child sex abuse charges in Colorado was booked into a Denver jail on a no-bond hold.

Jason Martinez was taken into custody a day after a Denver judge issued a warrant for his arrest for violating the terms of his bond agreement when he left Colorado without court permission. Martinez was arrested at a Denver home without incident, said Lynn Kimbrough, Denver district attorney spokeswoman.

For Albuquerque Public Schools, public relations nightmares keep happening largely because of the district's size and many competing political fractions vying for control of its half a billion dollar budget while pushing their own versions of education reform.

Before Valentino took over in June, former superintendent Winston Brooks abruptly resigned last year over a secret personnel issue. His tenure was marked by controversy after he insulted state Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera on social media using farm animal sounds.

Brooks also publicly fought with Skandera over Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's reform efforts from proposed social promotion bans to a new teacher evaluation system.

Former superintendent Beth Everitt left her post in 2008 following a controversy over the changing a student's failing grade and former superintendent Joseph Vigil died in a bizarre one-car rollover involving alcohol a few weeks before the start of a school year. Vigil was not the driver.

Former school chief Brad Allison resigned in 2002 amid allegations of alcohol and drug abuse and left with a $380,000 settlement that drew criticism. In his farewell letter to Albuquerque published by the Albuquerque Journal, Allison compared himself to Luke Skywalker from Star Wars.

The Allison tenure resulted in residents voting down important school funding and led to the creation of a four-person superintendent team that included Everitt, Vigil and Garrity. That team also included the district's then-financial officer Michael Vigil who was later arrested on a drunken driving charge.

But Garrity said the district's latest controversy happened much faster because Valentino, who was hired from San Francisco Unified School District, made early mistakes and didn't understand the political fractions in the state.

Valentino hired Jason Martinez to head the district's instruction and technology division. But the district never completed its background check on Martinez, who has been charged with felony sexual assault on a child charges in Colorado involving two victims.

Martinez resigned last week. His attorney, Michael Meaux, has not returned phone calls for comment.

Meanwhile, the board of the Albuquerque Public Schools is scheduled to vote on Valentino's fate Thursday. In a statement Wednesday, it asked residents for patience.

"As elected officials, we must answer to our constituents, but we also must abide by personnel and privacy laws," the board said. "It's a quandary we face, and we assure you that we will share with you what we can, when we can.


Associated Press writers Steve Paulson in Denver and Mary Hudetz in Albuquerque contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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