Board punts decision on embattled Albuquerque schools chief

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Posted: Aug 27, 2015 2:50 PM
Board punts decision on embattled Albuquerque schools chief

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The embattled superintendent of New Mexico's largest school district has been granted a reprieve after school board members put off making a decision Thursday regarding his future at the helm of the troubled district.

Members of the board that oversees Albuquerque Public Schools met behind closed doors for more than four hours to discuss whether Luis Valentino should keep his job after he hired an administrator charged with child sex abuse.

Afterward, board president Don Duran said further review was needed and another meeting would be scheduled for Monday morning. He declined to release any details about the board's discussions.

"At this time, we are working actively toward a solution," Duran said. "I am hoping and sure that a decision will be made on Monday."

Valentino became superintendent in June following a nationwide search that took nearly a year and cost the district $36,000. He then hired Jason Martinez to head the district's instruction and technology division.

But the district never completed its background check on Martinez, who was charged in Colorado with felony sexual assault on a child involving two victims. Martinez resigned last week.

On Tuesday, Valentino told reporters he is upset with himself for not being aware of Martinez's many legal problems.

A lawyer for Karen Rudys, the district's interim assistant superintendent for human resources, has said Valentino was informed multiple times about Martinez refusing to complete his background check but ignored those concerns.

Valentino denied that allegation.

On Thursday, Martinez appeared in Denver District Court, where Judge Brian Whitney increased his bail to a total of $200,000 on the child sexual assault charges and separate charges of assault involving two adults. His bail previously totaled $100,000.

Whitney also ordered Martinez to wear an ankle monitor and expressed surprise he wasn't told to do so earlier.

Martinez's attorney, Leonard Anthony Martinez, told the judge his client took the Albuquerque job because he thought the Colorado cases would be resolved by July. The attorney pointed out Jason Martinez hadn't missed any court appearances.

Prosecutors said they were unaware Jason Martinez has taken the New Mexico job until an Albuquerque news organization contacted them.

Martinez appeared in court wearing a jail uniform with shackles on his wrists and ankles. He didn't speak.

Martinez worked for Denver Public Schools for 10 years, ending in 2012. He was arrested in Denver in the sex abuse case in 2013. Neither of the alleged victims was connected to his employment at the district.

At Thursday's meeting in Albuquerque, some parents yelled at the board members for delaying the vote and demanded action, saying parents and students deserved better.

The school board has asked residents to be patient while it weighs Valentino's future. Classes in the district started earlier this month.

"You deserve answers to your questions, an explanation of what has transpired during Superintendent Valentino's tenure, and information about how we plan to address these circumstances," the board said in a statement Wednesday. "As soon as we are able to respond, we will. Until then, we ask for your patience and understanding."

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Associated Press Writer Dan Elliott in Denver contributed to this report.