27 August 2015

An open letter to the Albuquerque Public School Board

As the mother of a child in the Albuquerque Public School system, I'm appalled and infuriated that someone facing four counts of child sexual abuse would be hired by our school district, let alone be placed in one of the highest positions in the district, and allowed to begin work and collect on his handsome salary without a background check. 

It's frightening really.  It makes me ask the question who else could have possibly passed through the APS background check loophole and could potentially be working in my son's school?  How do I have confidence that every employee and volunteer in the APS has a cleared background check when one of its highest officials was out on pretrial release for very serious child sexual abuse allegations?  Do you see how that would lend to us parents having zero confidence in you?

The start of the school year is one of the most exciting times for our children and for us as parents.  The day before school we arrived at the school only to learn my son's assigned teacher would be on maternity leave until January and that a long-term substitute would be in the class until then.  A bummer for sure but we rolled with it because we support our school.  The next day, on the first day of 2nd grade, complete chaos ensued once the bell rang.  All the new teachers were lining up all the eager new students into lines with their classes.  My son's class had no teacher.  The parents all walked our children down the hall into the classroom to meet a man with a "guest" pass on standing in the room.  I introduced myself and asked if he had a plan for the day.  He told me "not really, I was just called in this morning."  I was devastated.  My son's first day of 2nd grade was going to be spent with someone who had no plans for the day or any clue what he was expected to be doing.  I spoke with several parents in the hall and we all agreed we would speak with the administration about our concern.  By the end of the day, the principal called me and informed me the long-term substitute that we had been told would be in the room would start the next day.

Meanwhile, APS was paying $160,000 to a man facing child sexual abuse charges and neglected to conduct a background check before his official hire. We don't have licensed teachers in our kid's classrooms.  APS could use such substantial resources to pay for 4 additional teachers with that salary.  Imagine that.

Now we are being asked to blindly support a Superintendent and board that has done absolutely nothing to gain our trust.  When I send my son to school everyday, I am trusting you.  I'm trusting you and every person you hire with my kid and his wellbeing.

I have heard the argument in the media that Valentino should not be fired because he did not know about the pending charges Jason Martinez was facing.  I disagree.

As the leader of an organization, I have made it clear to my Board that they need to regularly have the staff's voice represented in their evaluation about me.  The wellbeing of our organization is not about me it is about all of the sum parts that make up the organization.  I can believe I am the greatest director but if staff morale is low and people are fleeing our organization because the policies and practices in place under my leadership have made them lose confidence, the Board should consider the whole of the organization.  After all, it is the staff that makes our organization what it is. Not me.

I have heard from numerous teachers they feel so low in their jobs now.  They have no trust or confidence in Valentino or the school board.  They don't trust you.  This is not about Valentino.  This is about the greater good of our school system.  If we don't have teachers we don't have a school system.  It is your time to consider the whole of the school district that you have been elected to represent.

An editorial today suggested we all need to just calm down because once again the board has gotten themselves into a position where contractually they may not be able to afford terminating another Superintendent.   That should not be on us as parents, our kids, or the teachers.  That is on you.

The teachers who educate our children in our classrooms and the constituents you are supposed to represent have zero confidence in Valentino's ability to lead our schools.  Your lack of his swift removal  makes us question our confidence in you as well.

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